Family of slain Palestinian teen asks Israel’s Supreme Court to raze Jewish killers’ homes

The family of a Palestinian teen killed in a revenge attack by three Jewish extremists has asked Israel’s Supreme Court to order the demolition of the murderers’ homes.

“The state needs to operate in the same way against Jewish terrorists as it does against Palestinians,” the family of Muhammad Abu Khdeir said Wednesday in its request, according to The Times of Israel. “Just like the homes of Palestinian terrorists are sealed, the same should be done to Jews.”

The family turned to the Supreme Court after the Defense Ministry determined last month that there was no need to demolish the Jewish killers’ homes, since Jewish terrorism is not as widespread as Palestinian terror, according to The Times of Israel, which saw the official letter sent to the family.

Abu Khdeir, of eastern Jerusalem, was kidnapped and killed on July 1, hours after the bodies of three kidnapped Jewish teens were discovered near Hebron. Abu Khdeir’s charred body was discovered in the Jerusalem Forest, where he was burned alive by the killers.

In May, Yosef Ben-David, 31, of Jerusalem, was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.

The names of Ben-David’s accomplices, who were both 16 at the time of the killing, have not been released publicly. The accomplices were sentenced last April: one to life in prison, the other to 21 years.

Demolition order issued for home of Palestinian who killed girl in her bed

The family of the Palestinian terrorist who killed a 13-year-old girl in her bed was informed that their home will be demolished.

The Israel Defense Forces and the Civil Administration of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories unit, or COGAT, on Monday night announced plans to raze the home of Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah, 17, of the village of Bani Naim, adjacent to Kiryat Arba.

Tarayrah jumped over the security fence of the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, adjacent to Hebron, entered the bedroom of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, a dual Israeli and American citizen, through an open window and stabbed her repeatedly, before being shot and killed by a community civilian guard, on June 30.

Immediately following the attack the village was sealed off and permits to work in Israel were revoked for the village’s residents, many of whom are related to the attacker. Tarayrah’s sister was arrested for incitement after publicly praising her brother’s actions. Two of his brothers reportedly were arrested on Sunday.

The demolition order was served to Tarayrah’s family by Israeli soldiers on Monday night.

Israeli government requests extension on outpost demolition

Israel’s government has asked the country’s Supreme Court to postpone the demolition of a West Bank outpost for several months.

The state requested the extension because it said it discovered new information that the Givat Assaf outpost near the Beit El settlement was not built on privately owned Palestinian land, as was alleged by Peace Now in the court case.

Givat Assaf is to be demolished by July 1. It is one of six illegal outposts that the court ordered to be dismantled.

Boyle Heights JCC

Someone has demolished a part of Los Angeles Jewish history and at this point no one in the Jewish community or even the city’s building department seems to know who did it and why.

The architecturally significant Soto-Michigan Jewish Community Center, the focal point of Jewish social and political community life in Boyle Heights from the early 1930s to the late 1950s, has disappeared under the wrecking ball.

The first to call attention to the loss — after discovering nothing but freshly turned dirt at the site — was Aaron Paley, president of Community Arts Resources. He was leading a Jewish heritage tour of Boyle Heights earlier this month and said he could hardly believe his eyes when he found an empty bulldozed parcel of land in place of the two-story building at the corner of Soto and Michigan.

The JCC not only served Boyle Heights when it was the liveliest “shtetl” in Los Angeles, but was also an architectural landmark.

It was designed by Raphael Soriano, a Sephardic native of Rhodes, who defined the architectural style known as “California modernism,” characterized by the innovative use of prefabricated steel and aluminum.

Famed architectural photographer Julius Shulman, a close friend of Soriano, raised considerable funds to get the project off the ground.

But Paley isn’t the only one surprised at the building’s disappearance.

David Lara of the L.A. Department of Building and Safety, which issues permits for demolitions, searched city records but found no trace of a demolition permit for the site.

A different kind of permit was issued for the location on Feb. 9 of this year, but only for electrical renovation work by Power Plus, a Sun Valley company.

An official at Power Plus confirmed the permit and named C&SO Construction Company as the main contractor. No one was available at the company office on Friday afternoon.

The JCC was not included on the historical landmark list of either the city or the Los Angeles Conservancy, a community organization.

Ken Bernstein of the Conservancy pointed out that many historic, cultural and architectural sites in Los Angeles remain unprotected from developers.

One problem is the sheer size of a city of 460 square miles. “We have in Los Angeles 800,000 legal parcels, but only 800 are designated as historic landmarks,” said Bernstein.

The Boyle Heights JCC had a gymnasium and meeting halls, but it was much more than that. The membership was well known for its “firebrand left politics,” as Paley put it.

One former member, Leo Frumkin, wrote that in his extended family in the 1940s, political ideology ranged from social democrats to communists.

The JCC pioneered the Jewish community’s outreach to other ethnic groups in the immediate post-war years. Its annual Friendship Festival brought together more than 12,000 “Mexican, Japanese, Negro and Jewish youths in a cooperative venture,” wrote historian George Sanchez.

After the vast migration of Boyle Heights Jews in the 1950s — to the Fairfax area, Beverly Hills, Westside and San Fernando Valley, the Soto-Michigan JCC became, for years, a general community center under the name All Nations’ Center.


Another Jewish Landmark Faces Demolition


Men slowly arrange scattered clothes into a makeshift tent on the front steps of 126 N. St. Louis St. A few windows in the building’s powder-blue facade are broken; an old chimney stains a sliver of the north wall black.

Today, the anonymous building is one among thousands that dot the Los Angeles cityscape, but in the 1930s and 1940s, the Vladeck Center was the secular heart of Jewish Boyle Heights. The building was a base for the Workmen’s Circle and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, as well as the founding location of the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC).

The Vladek Center’s history was unearthed last year, half a century after most of Los Angeles’ Jewish community moved west, when the city began moving forward with plans to demolish the building for an expanded Hollenbeck Police Station. Getting the city to alter course seems a tall order, but the planned demolition has attracted critical attention.

Preservationists and Jewish groups want to spare the building for cultural reasons. Separately, community activists have accused the city of cutting legal corners while displacing low-income residents.

“No one is opposed to a new police station,” said Ken Bernstein, director of preservation issues for the Los Angeles Conservancy. The Los Angeles Police Department “has very substandard facilities in Hollenbeck Division. I think what our groups are trying to achieve is a Hollenbeck Station project that also spares and enhances one of Boyle Heights’ defining social-cultural landmarks.”

These days, the two-story building is part church, the Templo Ebenezer Asambleas de Dios, and part residential halfway house. A world away, the building’s original namesake, Baruch Charney Vladeck, was a prominent socialist, New York City alderman and manager of The Forward newspaper.

The city first learned of the building’s Jewish past in the midst of planning for the $28.2 million Hollenbeck Station project, when environmental regulations required determining whether construction would damage any environmental, cultural or historic resources. In late 2003, consultant Portia Lee of the firm, California Archives, began investigating on behalf of the city.

“It looked like a Hispanic church, but I got this clue about its Jewish history from the building permit, [and] I could tell that it certainly hadn’t been built as a church,” Lee told The Journal.

By scrutinizing old Workmen’s Circle newsletters, Lee learned that during the 1930s, Jewish labor organizers met in a different building on the same site. That structure was removed to make room for the Vladeck Center.

“They either moved it onto the site or constructed it in 1940,” Lee said. The building’s distinctive Art Deco flourishes, reminders of another age, caught Lee’s eye. “I’m inclined to believe they moved it onsite, because it looks to me like a much earlier building, but I don’t know that,” she said.

Lee tracked down experts in Los Angeles Jewish history to uncover the Vladeck Center’s story, including Ken Burt, a JLC historian whose paid job is political director for the California Federation of Teachers. Burt compared Vladeck to a more well-known East L.A. Jewish landmark — the Breed Street Shul.

“Ken Burt said the most important thing,” Lee recalled. “‘Breed Street Shul is the religious side of the history, and the Vladeck Center is the secular side.’ That did it for me. Then I knew I could stand up before anybody and say this is an extremely important building.”

Lee suggested alternatives to demolition, such as using the building for a community center. However, that would require reconfiguring construction plans, which call for a parking structure on the Vladeck parcel, and Lee’s opinions failed to sway the city or the LAPD.

In the arcane language of urban planning, the city pushed for a “mitigated negative declaration,” a middling level of environmental review that likely would hasten demolition.

Simultaneously, based on Lee’s recommendations, the city’s Bureau of Engineering submitted the Vladeck Center to the L.A. Cultural Heritage Commission for consideration as a city monument. The building’s defenders accuse the city of using the submission as a gambit, hoping that a quick rejection of historic status would clear the path for an even quicker demolition.

But several well-directed letters from the JLC, the Jewish Historical Society and an attorney representing the L.A. Conservancy persuaded the city to authorize a full environmental impact report.

Meanwhile, the intervention from Jewish organizations helped draw attention to another aspect of the police station project, the impending demolition of about 60 low-income housing units in the surrounding neighborhood. Boyle Heights resident and attorney Miguel Flores accused the city of ignoring a California Environmental Quality Act regulation requiring environmental review before any public purchase of private property.

The current environmental impact report remains in draft form 18 months after land purchases began, and all the tenants, Flores said, already have been forced to move.

“I think people were misled,” he said. “I went to several community boards, such as the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, and some people weren’t even aware the project was going on at all. I found the whole process very mysterious.”

The city has defended its actions as appropriate, while acknowledging some uncertainly on timing. City attorney spokesman Jonathan Diamond said the law is unclear about whether environmental review needs to take place in advance of land purchases.

“There are differing opinions within the city,” Diamond said. “The extraconservative advice would be, ‘Yes, just do it,’ but there is a question about whether it is, in fact, a necessity.”

Flores responded by citing Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations, which states, in part, that “with public projects, at the earliest feasible time, project sponsors shall incorporate environmental considerations into project conceptualization, design and planning.” The regulations also stipulate that “CEQA compliance should be completed prior to acquisition of a site for a public project.”

Flores added, “The city was negotiating with property owners, and those owners left people in the dark. Finally, they found out because they had a 90-day notice to vacate.”

The entire neighborhood sits in the district of Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who is running for mayor against incumbent James Hahn. In an interview, Villaraigosa said he joins the community in fully supporting the police station project, which, he said, is badly needed.

“While I’d like to see the restoration or adaptive reuse of that building [the Vladek Center], it might be difficult to save it,” Villaraigosa said.

For his part, Flores is working to obtain compensation for evicted families, many of whom lost rent-controlled apartments and now live in quarters that are both more cramped and expensive.

Until June 1, the city is accepting public comment on its environmental impact report. After that, the city can move forward with the project — with or without saving the Vladek Center — pending City Council approval.

Salvaging the affordable housing seems a lost cause, but the Vladeck Center “has a large auditorium and a kitchen,” said consultant Lee. “One of the police [officers] told me, ‘We really like to do outreach.’ They could take the property and reuse it for whatever they want to do.”

Because the building lies on the periphery of the proposed Hollenbeck expansion, sparing it from destruction could be doable.

“It just looks like there are lots of ways to keep that building in use,” she said.