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Tag: New York (page 1 of 5)

Upper East Side Inferno

East 85th Inferno
Last Monday, a ferocious four-alarm fire all but destroyed the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue on East 85th Street on the upper East Side in Manhattan. The blaze broke out at 8:30 pm. Originally constructed in 1901, the synagogue has been closed since May for renovations scheduled for September completion. Thank God, the synagogue’s religious artifacts were housed elsewhere.

East 85th InfernoThe congregation, whose rabbi converted Ivanka Trump to Judaism before her marriage to Jared Kushner, has more than 1,200 members. The source of the blaze is still under investigation reports the New York Daily News.

Hezbollah Operatives Working Against Israel in New York

Israeli security and intelligence got a bit of a wake-up call today, October 27, when an Indian man, living in New York, and his accomplice were charged with providing guns and other weapons to Hezbollah.

hezbollah NYCPatrick Nayyar, 46, who has for years been living illegally in New York City, “agreed to provide weapons, ammunition, vehicles and night vision goggles to Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon” reports the Jerusalem Post.

Nayyar’s accomplice, Conrad Stanisclaus Mulholland, was doing business with an FBI informant, pretending to be a member of Hezbollah. He unknowingly provided the informant with a handgun, a box of ammunition and a pick-up truck, which were supposed to be delivered to a Hezbollah post in Lebanon.

Mullholland has not yet been arrested. And Nayyar was originally pinched at his home in Queens, New York on September 24, on charges of gun and ammunition possession.

check it out

Bernie Has All the Deserts

“I knew what I was doing was wrong and criminal.” These were the words uttered by Bernard Madoff, the former NASDAQ securities head who pleaded guilty to counts of criminal charges ranging from securities fraud, money laundering, and just plain theft in a New York City courtroom Thursday morning, March 12. Madoff, whose security deal rip-offs have so far run to more than $65 Billion (and still counting) was afterwards led off to a Federal detention center to ponder his eventual fate; which could amount to as much as 150 years behind bars.

Madoff, age 70, had come alone to the courthouse; leaving his wife, his brother, and his two sons to wonder how his guilty plea might eventually affect them. Madoff went on to say that he cannot express how sorry he is for what he has done. Many of the individuals and representatives of the various charities and foundations that Madoff so cleverly ripped off were present in the courtroom. Although many expressed satisfaction of getting their “pound of flesh” by seeing him being led off by federal marshals, others visibly expressed their anger at having the money they had invested in Bernie’s non-existent securities funds literally blown away. One woman who lost her entire life savings said: “It’s fine that he pleaded guilty, but that’s not going to help his victims!”

Madoff’s security shuffling scams took place over a course of more than 20 years, or virtually since the last big securities market melt-down of October, 1987. He might have continued to fleece his many clients, had the market not collapsed last September, causing his crooked deals to surface when clients tried to redeem accounts that didn’t exist. His many high profile customers, many of them Jewish, had no problem trusting the man who not only had garnished the complete confidence of his investors, but also the confidence of religious organizations. Indeed, he was a member of the Board of Governors of Yeshiva University, one of American Judaism’s most prestigious academic institutions.

The sheer size and scope of Madoff’s operations make earlier financial scams such as the 2001 Enron Corporation fiasco seem like child’s play. During Madoff’s house arrest, when he was allowed to continue residing in his $7 million Manhattan penthouse, Federal GAO agents conducted an inventory of his personal possessions. It is estimated at $ 1 Billion worth of various possessions, including a number of real estate properties in several locations. All of these will only pay a fraction of what he owes to his many creditors.

It actually turned out that Madoff’s declared wealth, as of the end of 2008, was “only” $832 million.

Bar Refaeli Conquers America

The annual release of the Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated is practically a national holiday in the States. Supermodels are defined by their appearance in the Swimsuit Issue. The entire media is abuzz with excitement and awe whenever a new Swimsuit issue comes out. And this year… our very own Bar Rafaeli has been chosen as the front cover girl!

This undated image released by Sports Illustrated/Raphael Mazzucco, shows model Bar Refaeli on the cover of the Feb. 14, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, on sale now.  (AP Photo/Sports Illustrated, Raphael Mazzucco)    **NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY FOR THREE WEEKS, ENDING MARCH 6, 2009. NO SALES. ONE TIME USE ONLY, NO ARCHIVES** **MANDATORY CREDIT: SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, RAPHAEL MAZZUCCO**

This undated image released by Sports Illustrated/Raphael Mazzucco, shows model Bar Refaeli on the cover of the Feb. 14, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, on sale now. (AP Photo/Sports Illustrated, Raphael Mazzucco) **NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY FOR THREE WEEKS, ENDING MARCH 6, 2009. NO SALES. ONE TIME USE ONLY, NO ARCHIVES** **MANDATORY CREDIT: SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, RAPHAEL MAZZUCCO**

She is only 23, but Bar Refaeli is already an international sensation. She grew up in Hod HaSharon, a suburban city southeast of Tel Aviv, and has been modeling her entire life. For the past 3 years, she’s been dating the “Titanic” Leonardo DiCaprio.

Mind you, Bar already made an appearance in the 2007 Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated on the inset page. However, this year she is spread over the front cover itself. A gigantic copy of the cover page has been plastered in Times Square, New York, causing serious traffic jams.

Bar is a Hebrew adjective which means “Wild and Raw”.

Bar Refaeli - Behind the Scenes

Ahmadinejad in New York

President of Iran @ Columbia University.
Image via Wikipedia

I wouldn’t be surprised to see in the near future a Broadway premiere titled “Mahmoud Superstar”.

The man is a celebrity! A notorious one — but a celebrity none the less. He is fond of the media, and arrived yesterday in New York like a Persian Prima donna.

Why has he come to the country which he despises so much? So he could speak freely in the United Nations’ General Assembly. I wonder if George Bush would be given the same honor if he came to Iran?

What’s on Ahmadinejad‘s agenda? The usual propaganda: “We’re not developing nuclear weapons, but we have all the right to do so.” , “Israel is a disgrace that has to be wiped off the face of the Earth” , “…so does America” , and on and on.

If I’m not mistaken, it’s the second time he arrives in New York in the past year or so. Perhaps he’s just too fond of Macey’s. Perhaps he’s scheduled a dinner with TomKat.

To be honest, he’s a funny man. I would go see his shows, if he happened to turn into a stand up comedian. But the UN’s General Assembly is no place to try out your new jokes. It’s a tough audience.

7 Years to 9/11

It’s been seven years since the world’s largest terror attack. Thousands of people died within minutes, in one surrealistic September morning. And then the world changed forever.

What would the world be like if there was no 9/11? Would America still go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq? Would George W. Bush still be elected for a second term? Would the Georgian conflict and the possible emergence of a second Cold War still be happening?

We don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. This is the world we live in, and we have to do our best with what we’ve got. More than 3000 people did die 7 years ago, and this wasn’t a Hollywood special effects scene. Personally, I still cannot comprehend the full meaning of that morning in New York. The mind cannot deal with such surrealism, so we try to repress what happened — and once a year, the unreal penetrates through our defense shield and we remind ourselves that life is ultimately uncertain.

Tel Aviv might launch free bus lines

Human Narration on BNarrator.com

Anyone who ever had to take a bus in Tel Aviv knows how frustrating it can be. Different lines operate in different hours, and you have to learn in advance the line’s route and which lines are available for you from where. There is no apparent master plan; routes curl, curve, and even turn backwards(!) as they progress through the city. Some suburban neighborhoods, such as Sheekun Lamed, are almost completely cut off from public transportation.

The dominating bus company within the Tel Aviv metropolis is the Dan Cooperative.

Dan Tel Aviv Bus Routes
Current bus routes in central Tel Aviv

Well, the city has been trying to persuade Dan to revamp its route architecture, and to create a crisscross pattern of bus routes — such as the ones that operate in New York and Los Angeles, and in many other major cities around the world. But Dan, which is being partly subsidised by the government, doesn’t want to lose any money over this possible revamping.

To the rescue comes Deputy Mayor Peer Visner, representative of the Green Party, who proposes having the city sponsor about 10 bus lines that would run in north-south or west-east routes, and that would offer their services for free. Such a move would likely put much pressure on Dan and force it to reconsider its resistance to this much-needed change.

Only future will tell whether the plan actually materializes in the near future or remains to be another one of these electoral promises that are being thrown around in an election year.

The CON in the Claims Conference on Jewish Material Claims

We are at home watching the shows and stories of the Holocaust. A day dedicated to the stories and the survivors here in Israel. There are 80,000 survivors in Israel that can barely survive and leave below the poverty line yet when they ask for help they are put through hell. Insurance monies, property taken from these people, claims money that were awarded all went to a group called the Claims Conference on Jewish Material Claims in New York.

The Conference is the sole beneficiary of German compensation. Actually $1,070,000,000 worth of compensation. When properties were released after the fall of the Berlin wall in Germany it was this organization that collected the properties – a list that until today is not being revealed to survivors. This body is today one of the largest single property ownership groups in Europe.

Today when a survivor wants to get the money he is left, he needs to face a battery of lawyers controlled by this New York organization. Even today this organization refuses to provide a list of the properties that are held supposedly for the Holocaust survivors.

120,000 properties were received, worth $1,050,000,000. And this money is transfered to organizations and foundations that have nothing to do with the Holocaust and its survivors. Organizations that are in Brooklyn, Jewish Museums, and a whole network of organizations not related to the Holocaust in any way.

Not only that, in one case when the Conference received a property and then is faced with a claim from the actual property owner, the Conference demanded 50% of the money and threatened in writing the owner that they will take his house if he doesn’t pay up. Blackmailing Holocaust survivors!!! The CON gets worse and is aggressively covered up to the extent that employees are fired for asking the wrong questions.

There are 24 Jewish organizations that control the Claims Conference each having the same weight in decisions and allocations. And so Israel with its 80,000 survivors gets the same weight in deciding on the allocation of aid as for example South Africa with its 900 survivors.

The Conference allocates money for political favors and people on the board of directors are getting ridiculous salaries with administrative costs that are running in the millions. The term for this in the US is Self Dealing! It is Self Dealing that is now hopefully going to be investigated by the District Attorney of New York.

“Yirgon Uotzei Merkaz Europa”, an organization in Israel that received $9,000,000 from the Conference over the years, is managed by one of the guys close to the plate. That organization that supposed to help Eastern European jews is charging $4,000 a month for a room in their retirement home. It gives no breaks to Holocausts Survivors of course. The organization that received money and is supposed to help Holocaust education and support survivors has absolutely no such services or consideration to survivors. This year the organization will receive another $670,000.

To date 2,000 Holocaust survivors received assistance from the Conference.

Gideon Taylor the head of the Claims Conference on Jewish Material Claims makes $450,000 a year!

Good People…

New Sderot Magen David Adom Station

American Friends of Magen David AdomI got this today from Robert of the American Friends of Magen David Adom – thank you..

Just days after the Sderot area experienced the its latest brush with terror from a Qassam attack when a rocket slammed down near a neighborhood kindergarten, the city received a much needed upgrade to its essential services with the opening of a brand new Magen David Adom Emergency Medical Station.

The new facility, built by American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA), replaces a makeshift building built over 30 years ago that had recently been condemned for structural problems. The lead gifts were made in memory of Judy Kaplan of New York City and Esther and Hyman Rapport of Cleveland, OH.

Eli Moyal with American Contributors SderotBeneath cloudy skies and the always present threat of renewed Qassam strikes, an enthusiastic audience of dignitaries, including Minister of Health Yaacov Ben-Yizri, Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal and Cultural Attache for the US Embassy in Tel Aviv Efraim Cohen, marked the opening alongside local Sderot paramedics, the leadership of Magen David Adom in Israel and friends of Magen David Adom from around the world.

In his remarks, Ben-Yizri said the day was a cause for both celebration as well as sadness, “We are excited that we can open such a grand and impressive facility, yet we are saddened by the knowledge that, at least in the near future, it will be called upon to treat the wounded from the surrounding areas,” he said. “When we see the work of these paramedics, we see examples of excellence where despite the situation and the dangers, they always perform remarkably.”

Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal spoke of his city’s sincere appreciation for the goodwill that has been shown to them by the international community saying, “While it may be that life is difficult here, the fact that people on the other side of the world care for us and support projects such as this new MDA station, this is what gives us strength to continue on and I can promise you today that this city will never fall.”

Prior to the official ribbon cutting of the new station, Daniel R. Allen, Chief Executive Officer of American Friends of Magen David Adom, saluted the donors who made the project possible and said the new facility would permanently enhance the already dedicated level of care MDA is able to provide Sderot and the surrounding areas. “What we have done is follow the instructions of Rav Kook. What was old we have made new and what is new we have made holy. We have been able to take an old station desperately in need of repair and make a new one that is both holy and of which all the people of Sderot and Israel can be proud. This town is a true symbol of courage and conviction and we as American Jews feel it is important to say that when the people of Sderot are under attack, we too feel their pain.”

The new Sderot station combines a large ambulance bay area with a dispatch facility, offices and multiple rooms for crews to rest during shifts. The building was constructed to updated standards that make much of it protected against rocket attacks, allowing crews to easily move to safety when hearing the “Tzeva Adom”alert.

Other dignitaries in attendance included Sderot resident and former Minister of Defense Amir Peretz, Professor Yehuda Skornick, President of MDA Israel, Dr. Noam Yifrach, Chairman of MDA Israel and Eli Bin, Director General of MDA Israel. Veteran Israeli broadcaster Haim Yavin served as the master of ceremonies.

American Friends of Magen David Adom – ARMDI is the authorized organization supporting the life saving efforts of MDA in Israel and representing Magen David Adom in the US. Magen David Adom (MDA) is Israel’s only government-mandated ambulance and emergency medical responders, serving as the nation’s second line of defense with medical, disaster, ambulance and blood services. Thanks to AFMDA/ARMDI supporters, more than 700 MDA ambulances and Mobile Intensive Care Units are on call 24/7, operating from over 100 Emergency Medical Stations and 11 dispatch stations throughout Israel, logging more than 6.75 million miles and taking care of more than 700,000 patients annually. Acclaimed for their heroic role in rescuing the wounded, coordinating activities with the IDF and Home Front Command and raising morale in Israel’s north during the Second Lebanon War, MDA also provides 97% of Israel’s blood needs and has launched the MDA Israel Cord Blood Bank.

In Sderot and the surrounding western Negev region, MDA remains on high alert, racing to the scene of every Qassam rocket and mortar attack to protect and care for Israel’s people.

Hope that station stays so empty they start doing Bingo night there…

The Oil War?

Oil WarPicture: The Washington Post

In a mode that could clearly say: “I told you so”, critics of America’s involvement in Iraq are now saying that the U.S. Administration sent the troopers there for one primary reason: to shore up a reliable source of crude oil that would keep flowing into American storage facilities, and hence into American citizens gas tanks for at least another 15 to 20 years. With Iraqi petroleum reserves estimated to be at least 10% to total world supply, and if major American oil companies like Exxon-Mobil and Amoco controlling the pumping of fossilized, primeval Earth in most of Iraq, then it would be a win-win situation; the winners being Uncle Sam and Co. of course.

Unfortunately, for President George Bush (an oilman himself) and his assistant, Vice President Dick Cheney (of Halliburton Corp. fame); things didn’t work out the way they wanted them to. Now that Iraqi and (presumably) US forces are staging an operation against Shiite militiamen in the oil rich Iraqi city of Basra, this oil war doctrine seems to be more relevant than ever. Iraqi oil production has been plagued with a scores of problems in both Iraq’s southern region as well as in the northern, Kurdish controlled sector.

Maybe this explains why so many top American officials have made so many “surprise visits” to Iraq in this 2008 election year.

Ever since the invasion of March, 2003, production and exports of Iraqi crude oil have been beset by a combination of old production equipment in bad repair, as well as countless incidents of sabotage by Iraqi insurgents and foreign elements who simply do not want Iraqi oil to fall into the hands of “The Great Satan”, no matter what the price to Iraq’s own economy. As oil has been this country’s major export (and was used by Saddam Hussein to fleece his pockets during his 30 year reign) not being able to produce and export sufficient quantities has resulted in the country’s economy becoming an international basket case.

Now, more five years later and 4,000 American way dead, this precious resource seems even more distant from American and other Western automobile gas tanks. Countries like Israel, who once feared possible attacks from Iraq with weapons of mass destruction, called WMD’s for short, now fear another oil rich country, Iran, whose leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has often called for Israel to be “wiped off the face of the map”. Despite the fact that the U.N. Headquarters is still located in New York City, American governmental officials, and especially New York City officials should have been more prudent than to let this man come twice to address the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, as well as speak before such a pristine academic institution as Columbia University. For it is Iran’s sponsored militiamen who are now fighting Americans in southern Iraq, as well as providing training and arms to Hamas militiaman in Gaza and to the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Oil is now fetching more than $100 a barrel, and the U.S. Dollar is even weaker than currencies like the Israeli Shekel. It appears that the time has come for some serious stock-taking in regards to just why American forces went into Iraq in the first place, instead of simply letting Saddam Hussein and his cronies remain there as a possible buffer against the real world enemy – Iran.

She’s Jewish You Know…

Heres an age-old, yet continuous phenomenon that continues to plague Jews in Israel and throughout the world. I just listened to the news about two Hollywood celebrities who are now doing a film project together. Scarlett Johanssen and Natalie Portman, two beautiful women and divas on the stage and screen. Portman, born in Jerusalem and raised in Long Island, New York grew up with a strong Jewish identification. A graduate of the Jewish “Day School” system (not sure which one, yet this is what I heard from more than one reliable source), Portman hit stardom at the age of 13 when she landed the leading role in the Broadway adaption of “Anne Frank, A Diary of a Young Girl”. From then on, she blossomed into a Queen of Stage and Screen.

Golden Globe nominee and Native New Yorker Scarlett Johannsen began her career in the Off-Broadway production of “Sophistry” with Ethan Hawke. A daughter of a Danish father and Jewish mother, Johanssen identifies as being a Jew and wears the title of “Jewess” proudly. During the many years of assimilation and intermarriage, many of her counterparts who were the product of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father, tend to lose the identification and consider their Jewish identity as irrelevant. Yet, it is evident that many still consider themselves Jews.

Now, back to the phenomenon. For many decades, Jews around the world have been intrigued and fascinated by other Jews who have achieved celebrity status. Though many other ethnic groups may share this nostalgic feeling, it seems to me that Jews have the monopoly here. Adam Sandler’s famous Hanukkah songs with a list of tens of Jewish celebrities are proof of the pudding (or should I say “borscht”). People roared with laughter the first time his song was played on the radio and since its during and before Hanukkah, it always coincides with Christmas (which happens to be the birthday of another Jewish man, yet I won’t go there).

So there you have it. Is it pride? Is it intrigue or is it a little bit of both? Fact is, the intrigue and nostalgia behind the statement, “She’s Jewish, y’know”… seems to be more unique in Jewish circles than in others.

A Tale of Two Scumbags: Spitzer and Katsav

SpitzerJust what does the guy who looks like he just ate a very bitter persimmon have to do with the former President of the State of Israel? Well, it appears that both of them had to resign over a few “problems” concerning women; that’s what! Elliot Spitzer, who just resigned his position as Governor of the State of New York, was nailed by U.S. Federal officials for being involved with prostitutes. This is despite the fact that he was a former prosecuting attorney and won the governorship over a campaign to fight organized crime, of which the world’s oldest profession is definitely a part of. Spitzer, seen standing at a press conference with the future ex-Mrs. Spitzer, confessed that he had been “consorting” with high priced hookers for several years. Some of them, especially a young nymphet named “Kristine” ( actually Ashley Alexandre Dupree), were charging Spitzer fees amounting to as much as $4,500 for a two hour romp.

All together, the now Ex-New York Governor is alleged to have spent more than $80 Grand on these gals, some of which may have come from the State Treasury. What complicates this matter even further is that Spitzer, A Democrat, is a close friend and confidant of Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton, who just happens to the a U.S. Senator from New York. In fact, Mr. Spitzer was one of a group of super delegates whose votes might be crucial for Clinton to push her past Barack Obama and be elected her party’s candidate for the Presidency.

KatsavNow for the other guy. No need to say much about him as Mr. Moshe Katsav, former President of the State of Israel, has been mentioned numerous times on this web blog. Katsav’s crimes are far worse than Spitzer’s who only faces misdemeanor charges for consorting with prostitutes, should he be arraigned at all. Katsav refused to resign his post when first implicated for a number of serious sex offenses which included rape, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse; as well as perjury and extortion. In order to get off the hook, Katsav cut a deal with the State Attorney, Manny Mazuz, in which Katsav would plead guilty to much lesser crimes, pay a modest fine and compensation to some of his alleged victims, and formerly resign his post. He finally did resign about two weeks before his term of office officially came to an end.

Both of these guys are now considered as real jerk-offs and scum bags by people in their respective countries. The question is how low a public official can go while holding the people’s trust. Obviously, they can go a hell of along way!

Super Tuesday for Israel

Super Tuesday 08
Picture: Salon.com
The mega American primary elections known as Super Tuesday are now over in America, and its implication is still to be seen in a Presidential race that is far from over. Many Americans living here in Israel had the chance to vote by absentee ballot. Those who didn’t should find out what needs to be done in order to vote in the main elections in November. Republican Party candidate John McCain appears to be the front runner and likely party candidate when the GOP convention convenes in August. He racked up the largest number of delegates over his rivals Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Huckabee, who fared better than many thought he would, wound up winning a number of Southern States, as well some others that might make him a “king maker” at the convention and even force McCain to give him a top cabinet post of even offer the Vice Presidency spot. That will of course depend on how Romney fares in the upcoming primaries as he has many more delegates than “Huck”.

The Democratic side is much more confusing, however, even though Hillary Clinton appears to have won more delegates, due to her winning big states like New York and California. Obama won more states in total and may fare better in upcoming primaries in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas, not to mention the District of Columbia which has a large Afro-American population. This race is likely to end up on the floor of the Democratic Party Convention this coming July, and be a real free-for-all.

What this election is gearing up to mean for Israel is how the new Presidential administration will deal with the Jewish State and with its Palestinian and other Arab neighbors. If Hillary Clinton should win the Presidency, she will probably use tactics similar to those her husband Bill used when he tried to put pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians to reach a peace agreement that failed miserably at the Camp David summit in July, 2000. If Barack Obama wins the Presidency, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen, especially in light of Obama’s Muslim influenced childhood; an issue that is still not definitely settled in the eyes of many Americans and Israelis.

As for Republican candidate McCain, his politics seem to fluctuate for ultra conservative to moderate. He has definite ideas concerning America’s Iraq involvement, and has even said that he would keep American troops in Iraq “for a hundred years if necessary”. That’s a bit different than either Hillary or Obama, both of whom favor eventual troop withdrawals. McCain might be a safer bet concerning America’s stand against Iran, though, as his military background makes him understand this kind of a problem more than his Democratic (and Republican) rivals.

Both political parties and their candidates need to understand a few basic points though. The situation in Iraq will not go away on its own, and Al Qaeda and its top leaders are still active and ready to have a go at America again. Iran and its proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas are also ready and waiting for the right opportunities, as we here in Israel are acutely aware of. And a worsening of the American economy will be bad for everyone, especially here in Israel.

So as the race heats up in the U.S. elections, all we in Israel can do is hope that the “flack” from it won’t come down too hard on our heads – literally!

Beaufort Nominated for Oscar

Beaufort Nominated for Oscar
The Israeli film Beaufort, directed by Joseph Cedar and based on the best selling novel by Ron Leshem, has just been nominated by the U.S. Academy Awards for an Oscar as the best foreign film for 2007.

The film is based on the trials and tribulations of an IDF combat unit in the weeks prior to Israel’s abandonment of Lebanon in May, 1999. Though criticized by some as being too negative in regards to the morale in an Israeli combat unit, others who have either read the book or seen the film say that it may be one of the best combat soldier war epics since the classic novel All’s Quiet on the Western Front by German novelist Eric Maria Remarque.

Cedar, who is a veteran IDF soldier and himself served in Lebanon, was so lost for words during a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Israel’s Cinema City that he found it hard to speak about the film that portrays the emotions and fears of young soldiers under constant attack and barrage by Hezbollah militia fighters. Pinned down in their bunker atop the former Crusader fortress of Beaufort, the soldiers experience very similar fears and personal trials as the young soldiers in Remarque’s novel, based on a war which occurred more than 80 years before.

An Israel film has not been nominated by the Hollywood Film Academy since Behind the Walls, a movie based on Israeli prison life, received a nomination in 1984. In a recent review by the New York Times, the film is considered a lesson in the futility of war, and that it portrays the truly human side of the young combatants who wear military gear that almost resembles something out of a science fiction story, which only adds to the depression and anxiety they feel as they confront an enemy skilled in a type of fighting that has become known as “asymmetric warfare”. Though they are under constant bombardment and rarely even see their enemy, they begin to create their own intimate society within the twisting concrete corridors of their bunker, which they consider as their home. Only a series of disastrous command decisions by their commanding officer, Liraz, often a victim of his own emotions, make the soldiers aware of their predicament at the hands of a much more skillful enemy.

The film previously won the Silver Bear film award at the Berlin Film Festival last year, which makes the film even more similar to Remarque’s story which also won several awards after it was later made into a movie. Beaufort is in contention with other foreign films from Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Austria. Barring its possible cancellation if the Hollywood writer’s strike is not settled, the final decision on the Oscar award will be announced at the Academy Awards Ceremony in Hollywood on February 27.

Lev Leviev Quitting Israel

The announcement by Billionaire Lev Leviev, one of Israel’s wealthiest citizens, that he and his family are planning to leave Israel is causing reverberations all over Israel, and the Jewish world. Reported destination for Mr. Leviev is London, England, where the businessman and entrepreneur already has varied business interests. He is Chairman of African Israel Development Company, is also head of L.L.D. Diamonds, the largest diamond manufacturing company in Israel and one of the largest in the world. Leviev, age 51, came to Israel originally from Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 1971, and has been one of the leaders of the Bukharian Jewish community in Israel for many years. The billionaire’s personal fortune has been estimated at “between 4 and 7 billion dollars”, and he is rated number 278 by Forbes rating of the wealthiest people in the world.

A deeply religious man, Leviev made the news several years ago when he purchased the controlling interest in the exclusive Ramat Aviv Shopping Mall, and almost immediately prevented the multi-screen cinema there from being open on Shabbat and Jewish religious holidays. Although the cinema later opened its doors during Jewish holy days, Leviev retaliated by announcing that he would remove the cinema entirely from the mall. Leviev is deeply involved in the Chabad religious movement, and has made large donations to the Chabad Movement in both Israel and abroad. He was a personal friend of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, who has been refereed by many as the Jewish “Meshiach” or Messiah.

Leviev’s diamond empire, which includes mines in both Russia and southern Africa, has given him so much clout that he has even challenged the DeBeers international diamond syndicate by saying that due to the size and scale of his operations, he doesn’t need to be a Debeers diamond “sight-holder” since he has enough access to raw, uncut diamonds from his own sources. His real estate empire has also reached a state where he is purchasing exclusive property in cities such as London and New York City, some of which cost more than half a billion dollars. Besides purchasing various luxurious properties in the U.S., his Africa Israel company also owns controlling interest in the 1,700 “Fina” gas stations which are spread all over the continental U.S.

Leviev is a strong family man and the father of nine children. Recently, he appointed his eldest daughter to be the CEO of Africa-Israel, which may have been an advanced notification of his intention to relocate. He has also been recently quoted that he is very dissatisfied with the present political situation in Israel and also in the manner in which many non-religious Israelis are living, including their desecration of the Sabbath and religious holidays. Israel’s dealing with the Palestinians has also been disappointing to Leviev, especially in regards to the Olmert government’s willingness to return most of the West Bank in return for a peace agreement.

Whether Leviev and his family will like living in an increasingly Muslim influenced city like London is too early to tell. London’s Jewish population has recently taken on a religious revival which many younger families choosing to become deeply religious. London’s business proximity is probably attractive to Mr. Leviev as the city of nearly 20 million has one of the largest diamond bourses in the world. And regarding his many business interests in Israel, London is only a 4 hour plane flight away. While this move may not be permanent one, Mr. Leviev appears to be sending the State of Israel a distinct message that it should consider putting its political and religious house in order before it’s too late to do so.

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