Community Briefs


Gaming Commission Postpones MoskowitzVote

The California Gambling Control Commission again has postponed a vote on Dr. Irving Moskowitz’s permanent license request for his Hawaiian Gardens Casino card club, which peace activists decry as a funding tool for West Bank settlers.

“There has been more significant opposition to this than there has been to any other application,” said commission chief counsel Peter Melnicoe, who wants California Department of Justice gambling investigators to double-check Moskowitz’s application, whose casino-style card club now operates with a temporary, provisional license. “We plan to ask the Division of Gambling Control to clarify certain points.”

Unlike the commission’s Dec. 18 and Jan. 9 hearings in downtown Los Angeles, the Moskowitz application did not dominate the Feb. 26 hearing, with the application postponed in routine fashion and no outcry from opponents or supporters. The application is not on the commission’s two March meeting agendas.

A long activist battle has been waged against Moskowitz, a retired Long Beach doctor whose rise as a Bingo impresario radically changed tiny, poor Hawaiian Gardens in southeast Los Angeles County. Though he enjoys Hawaiian Gardens and Jewish community support, the activists’ main gripe is that Moskowitz uses part of his gambling proceeds to buy East Jerusalem land for Jewish settlers.

“We want to take a methodological approach to evaluating the complaints and the charges that have been made,” Melnicoe told The Journal. “We’re going to try to expedite this as much as we can, but at the same time we want to give consideration to the merits of the application.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

LAPD Members Visit Israel

Leaders in the Los Angeles Police Department, such as John Miller, commander of the Critical Incident Management Bureau; Joe Polisar, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police; and William Gore, special assistant to the Department of Justice in Southern California, traveled to Israel in February as participants in the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs’ (JINSA) Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP).

The law enforcement officials joined 14 of the most senior police chiefs, sheriffs and state police commanders in Israel to intensively study counterterrorism techniques. They were briefed on bomb disposal, the increasing sophistication of domestic terrorists, the mindset of suicide bombers and how to secure large venues, such as shopping malls and concert halls, without disrupting the enjoyment of the public.

The LEEP program is designed to establish cooperation between U.S. and Israeli law enforcement personnel and to give the U.S. law enforcement community access to the lessons learned by the Israelis in the interdiction of and response to all forms of terrorism.

The Israeli National Police hosted the JINSA group in cooperation with the Israel Security Agency and the Israel Defense Forces.

“Nothing can replicate American officials seeing these types of programs firsthand, and the systems that are put in place to deal with them,” said Steven Pomerantz, a member of JINSA’s board of advisers. — Gaby Wenig, Staff Writer

Wedding Hall Disaster


Israel has set up a state commission of inquiry into building safety after 23 people were killed and hundreds injured when a wedding hall collapsed last week.

The May 24 collapse at the Versailles wedding hall in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood has spurred a public outcry over what are considered widespread problems of corner-cutting by contractors and lax enforcement of building codes by local authorities.

The collapse also heightened fears that poor construction practices could make many buildings disaster prone — all the more so because Israel is located in an earthquake zone.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said those guilty of negligence must be brought to justice.

Israelis “pay a heavy and needless price as a result of a disregard for law and order,” he said at a joint news conference with Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert.

The commission will address construction problems in general, not the Versailles hall collapse specifically.

A government statement issued Tuesday said the commission will examine the “full range of professional and legal questions related to the safety of buildings and places designed for public use.”

In what was considered Israel’s worst civilian disaster, 23 people were killed and more than 200 injured last week when the dance floor collapsed beneath the feet of wedding guests, plunging them three stories in a cloud of broken concrete and twisted steel.

One of the dead was a 3-year-old boy. Rescuers said they found the bodies of an entire family sitting around a party table smashed in the wreckage.

The bride and groom, Keren and Assaf Dror, were injured and received adjoining hospital beds.

A video of the collapse showed well-dressed partygoers dancing under colored lights when the floor gave way beneath them.

Police detained at 11 people for questioning — including the owners of the hall, engineers and building contractors — following the disaster.

Among those held by police was the inventor of a construction method used in the wedding hall and in many other buildings built in Israel during the 1980s.

According to reports, more than 6,500 structures in Israel were built using the cheaper Pal-Kal method, which uses thinner sections of concrete than usual during construction. The building method was banned in 1996 because of safety concerns.

An initial inquiry indicated that recent renovations at the wedding hall — including the removal of supporting walls and beams, as well as the use of the Pal-Kal construction method — could have contributed to the building’s collapse.

Police also are investigating possible allegations of lax enforcement of building codes by municipal officials, including possible corruption.

Some of those detained were suspected of trying to remove municipal files regarding the wedding hall before police nabbed them.

Citing the sensitivity and complexity of the case, Israel’s police commissioner transferred the investigation from the Jerusalem police to the national fraud squad.

In the wake of the collapse, a special hotline set up by the Israel Building Association was flooded with calls from worried Israelis.

Meanwhile, local officials have ordered inspections of buildings designated for public use.

Haifa’s mayor, Amram Mitzna, on Tuesday ordered a banquet hall closed after city inspectors concluded that renovation work on the building had raised the risk of collapse.