After bombings, New Yorkers cop an Israeli attitude: ‘Stuff’ happens By Andrew TobinSeptember 22, 2


“I heard the explosion, then I went to the deli.”

In the hours after the bombings Saturday in New York and on the Jersey Shore, the phrase became an instant slogan for New Yorkers’ purported coolness under fire. Attributed to a witness of the bombing that injured 31 people in Manhattan, one of three apparently attempted by a New Jersey man apprehended Sept. 19, it quickly spread online.

Media commentators soon picked up on the meme of New Yorkers’ resilience.

On “The Daily Show” Monday night, host Trevor Noah made light of news footage of New Yorkers complaining about being mildly inconvenienced by the bombing. BuzzFeed highlighted tweets by New Yorkers debating which of Manhattan’s ill-defined neighborhoods should be properly identified as the site of the bombing.

Over here in Israel, a country that prides itself on how quickly it recovers after a terrorist attack, experts on social resilience agreed that Americans are rightly impressed by New Yorkers — though they said Saturday’s bombings, which had no fatalities, was not a particularly severe test. While Israelis have been prepared for terrorism by decades of experience, they said, New Yorkers may develop resilience just by living in the hectic city. 

“If you have past experience with continuous disruption it helps, it helps to be prepared for disruption caused by terror,” Meir Elran, the lead researcher on homeland security at the Institute of National Security Studies, a leading think tank in Israel, told JTA.

“As we say in Hebrew: Shit does happen. I think New Yorkers may be uniquely aware of that.”

In social science, resilience can be defined as a society’s ability to bounce back from a disruption, or an event that interferes with daily life. The faster a society returns to normal following a disruptive event, like severe violence or a natural disaster, the more resilient it is said to be. The more disruptive the event, the longer it will take to return to normalcy. 

Past experience of disruptions and social capital are major predictors of resilience.

“It is true that people are resilient in general. Otherwise the human race would not have sustained itself for so many generations through so many various disruptions,” Elran said. “It is also true that there are societies that are more resilient than others, and the rate of resilience of a society depends to a great extent on past exposure to disruptions and how socially and economically well off it is.”

Unfortunately, Israel has dealt with regular disruptions by Palestinian terrorism since before its founding. Rather than collapsing, the society has strengthened, including by gradually and haltingly improving its preparation.

After the second intifada and the Second Lebanon War, both in the 2000s, Israel shifted its security doctrine to include protecting the homeland rather than only taking the fight to the enemy. The state built a security barrier with the West Bank, developed missile defense systems and restructured its Home Front Command, among other things. (On Tuesday, sirens sounded across Israel as part of a national preparedness drill, a practice introduced after the Second Lebanon War.)

At around the same time, observers have said, there was a shift in the way Israelis thought about themselves. Matti Friedman, a former correspondent for The Associated Press, said in his new book that Israelis by 2000 had given up on reshaping the Middle East, be it through Oslo-like compromise or Lebanon War-like force.

“When these things began to be clear, something interesting occurred,” Friedman wrote in “Pumpkinflowers.” “People in Israel didn’t despair, as our enemies hoped. Instead they stopped paying attention. Our happiness would no longer depend on the moods of people who wish us ill, and their happiness wouldn’t concern us more than ours concerns them.”

Speaking to JTA from Jerusalem, he said: “There have been stabbing attacks here over the last few days. The city is completely unaffected. It hasn’t come up in people’s conversations. It hasn’t affected people’s plans that I know of. If the intention is to disrupt people’s lives and make them afraid, it’s not working.”

Deeming Zionist slogans outdated, Friedman in his book suggested a new one to rival New York’s: “On the bus.” This was the terse answer an Israeli soldier named Harel gave to an interviewer who in 2000 asked how he managed to return to Southern Lebanon after his entire platoon was killed in the helicopter crash that ultimately led to Israel’s withdrawal from the area.

An Israeli border police officer checking a Palestinian man in front of Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, Sept. 20, 2016. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)

An Israeli Border Police officer checking a Palestinian man in front of the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, Sept. 20, 2016. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)

Of course, New Yorkers have faced terrorism, too, most notably the world-shaking attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Like Israel, New York and the United States, traumatized by the attacks, responded by becoming more prepared. The creation of the New York Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration are just a few examples. But terrorism is not part of daily life in the Big Apple the way it is in Israel.

“The situation in New York is still fundamentally different,” an Israeli researcher on social resilience told JTA on condition of anonymity because of the public nature of his policy work.

“Attacks like those [in New York and New Jersey] this week are sporadic, quite rare events that contradict the usual story of life in New York City. So for now at least, it is possible to ignore terror as part of a shared reality there.”  

Elran said the level of disruption caused by the bombings was “very low.”

Still, the American celebration of New Yorkers’ resilience to terrorism has empirical backing, the researchers said. Studies have found the first responders and the public in general returned to normal life remarkably quick after 9/11, in many ways within a few weeks.

New Yorkers may be resilient to terrorism despite relatively little experience in part because the intensity of living in the city involves near constant disruption on a small scale, according to the researchers.

“Events happen here very quickly, and in New York, it is also the case,” said the social resilience researcher in Israel. “People there experience work-related stress and life is very intensive.”

Elran said it takes a certain degree of sophistication to understand that things are not always going to be stable.

“New Yorkers, with their diversity of experience, can been seen as people who are more accustomed to disruption,” he said. “And it helps that they tend to be socially and economically well to do.”

Israel, too, has flourished socially and economically despite the constant threat of terrorism. The nation’s adaptability, arguably informed by its challenges, has made Israel a world leader in technology and security. But there are downsides, the social resilience researcher said.

“There is no magic way to avoid paying a price,” he said. “In Israel, there are high levels of frustration and aggression, and you know what the driving culture here is like.”

Anyone who has taken the New York subway during rush hour may be able to relate.

New York City shaken by ‘intentional’ explosion, 29 injured


An explosion rocked the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan on Saturday night, injuring at least 29 people, authorities said, adding that they are investigating the blast as a criminal act not immediately linked to any terror organization.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials said investigators had ruled out a natural gas leak as the origin of the blast but they stopped short of calling it a bombing and declined to specify precisely what they believed may have triggered the explosion.

“Early indications are that this was an intentional act,” de Blasio said. He added that the site of the explosion, outside on a major thoroughfare in one of the most bustling areas of New York City, was being treated as a crime scene.

“There is no evidence at this point of a terror connection,” the mayor said at a news conference about three hours after the blast. He added, “There is no specific and credible threat against New York City at this point in time from any terror organization.”

The mayor said investigators did not believe there was any link to a pipe bomb that exploded earlier on Saturday in the New Jersey beach town of Seaside Park. No injuries were reported in that blast, in a plastic trash can along the route of a charity foot race. Authorities said they believed it to be a deliberate act.

But a U.S. official said that Joint Terrorism Task Force, an interagency group of federal, state and local officials, was called to investigate the Chelsea blast, suggesting authorities have not ruled out the possibility of a terror connection.

A joint task force also took the lead in investigating the New Jersey incident.

A law enforcement source said an initial investigation suggested the Chelsea explosion occurred in a dumpster but the cause was still undetermined. The head of the New York Police Department's special operations division said on Twitter that a “possible secondary device has been located” in the same general area.

CNN reported that law enforcement sources believed an improvised explosive device caused the blast.

President Barack Obama, who was attending a congressional dinner in Washington, “has been apprised of the explosion in New York City, the cause of which remains under investigation,” a White House official said. “The president will be updated as additional information becomes available,” the official added.

New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said 29 people were hurt in the blast, and 24 of them had been taken to area hospitals, including one person he described as seriously injured. The rest suffered various cuts, scrapes and other minor injuries from shattered glass and other debris, Nigro said.

The explosion, described by one neighbor as “deafening,” happened outside the Associated Blind Housing facility at 135 W. 23rd Street. The facility provides housing, training and other services for the blind.

Explosions hit Brussels airport, metro – several killed


This is a developing story.

Explosions tore through the departure hall of Brussels airport on Tuesday morning killing up to 10 people and injuring 30 others and a second blast struck a metro station in the capital shortly afterwards, the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF said.

The Belga agency said shots were fired and there were shouts in Arabic shortly before the blasts at the airport. Pictures on social media showed smoke rising from the terminal building through shattered windows and passengers running away down a slipway, some still hauling their bags.

The blasts at the airport and metro station occurred four days after the arrest in Brussels of a suspected participant in November militant attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Belgian police had been on alert for any reprisal action.

British Sky News television's Alex Rossi, at the airport, said he heard two “very, very loud explosions”.

“I could feel the building move. There was also dust and smoke as well…I went towards where the explosion came from and there were people coming out looking very dazed and shocked.”

“The thinking here is that it is some kind of terrorist attack – that hasn't been verified by any of the authorities here at the airport.”

Video showed devastation inside the departure hall with ceiling tiles and glass scattered across the floor.

RTBF said the metro station hit by the explosion was close to European Union institutions. Authorities closed all metro stations in Brussels, but there were no details immediately available of any casualties in this second incident of the day.

A local journalist tweeted a photograph of a person lying covered in blood among smoke outside Maelbeek metro station, on the main Rue de la Loi avenue which connects central Brussels with the EU institutions.

FLIGHTS CANCELLED, PASSENGERS EVACUATED

The agency cited hospital sources as saying up to ten people wre killed at the airport.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on his twitter feed: “We are following the situation minute by minute. Our priority concern is for the victims and those present in the airport.”

Brussels airport said it had cancelled all flights and the complex had been evacuated and trains to the airport had been stopped. Passengers were taken to coaches from the terminal that would remove them to a secure area.

Police did not give any confirmation of the cause of the blast. But there has been a high state of alert across western Europe for fear of militant attacks backed by Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attack.

European stocks fell after the explosions, particularly travel sector stocks including airlines and hotels, pulling the broader indices down from multi-week highs. Safe-haven assets, gold and government bonds rose in price.

French citizen Salah Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect for November's Paris attacks on a stadium, cafes and a concert hall, was captured by Belgian police after a shootout on Friday.

Belgium's Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, said on Monday the country was on high alert for a revenge attack.

“We know that stopping one cell can … push others into action. We are aware of it in this case,” he told public radio.

French investigator Francois Molins told a news conference in Paris on Saturday that Abdeslam, a French citizen born and raised in Brussels, admitted to investigators he had wanted to blow himself up along with others at the Stade de France on the night of the attack claimed by Islamic State; but he later backed out.

Video shows huge explosion that rocks Tianjin in northern China


A huge explosion hit an industrial area in the northeastern Chinese city of Tianjin late on Wednesday evening, triggering a blast wave felt several kilometers away and injuring at least 50 people, domestic media reported.

State broadcaster China Central Television reported that the blast had erupted in a shipment of explosives at around 11.30 pm local time and that an unknown number of people had been injured, the South China Morning Post said on its website.

Videos of the explosion showed flames lighting up the night sky and state-run news agency Xinhua quoted residents in nearby districts as saying the blast had shattered windows. Citing a local hospital, Xinhua said more than 50 people had been injured.

Explosions, gunfire heard around Kabul International Airport


Insurgents launched a pre-dawn attack on Afghanistan's main international airport in the capital, Kabul, on Monday, police said, with explosions and gunfire heard coming from an area that also houses major foreign military bases.

There were no immediate reports of casualties and there was also no early claim of responsibility for the attack.

Attacks on the heavily guarded airport, used by civilians and the military, are relatively rare and would represent an ambitious target for insurgents, with recent assaults staged against less well-protected targets.

The airport, by comparison, is home to a major operational base for NATO-led forces that have been fighting Taliban and other insurgents for 12 years and is bristling with soldiers and police, guard towers and several lines of security checkpoints.

Police said the attack appeared to be centred on the military side of the airport, to the west of the civilian terminal.

“Gunmen have entered a house under construction in the west of Kabul airport and are fighting with security forces,” Kabul police spokesman Hashmatullah Stanekzai said.

“Their target is Kabul airport and all roads to it are sealed,” he said.

A spokesman for the Afghan Air Force, which is also based at the facility, also said the airport was the target of the attack. There are also a number of logistics bases in the area.

The attack began at about 4.30 a.m. (2400 GMT). Embassies in the diplomatic zone in the centre of Kabul were quickly locked down and emergency alarms were heard ringing loudly from the British embassy.

Reuters witnesses reported hearing explosions at the airport, with reports of rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire. Blasts still being heard an hour after the attack was launched.

Concerns are mounting over how the 352,000-strong Afghan security forces will cope with an intensifying insurgency once most foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The airport attack came soon after assaults on the International Organisation for Migration in Kabul and against the International Committee of the Red Cross in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Four people were killed and three wounded in those attacks.

In April 2011, a rogue Afghan air force officer shot and killed eight U.S. servicemen and a civilian contractor in the worst attack at the airport since the war began.

Additional reporting by Dylan Welch and Omar Sobhani; Writing by Dylan Welch; Editing by Paul Tait

Israeli soldier killed in Golan mine explosion


An Israeli soldier was killed in a mine explosion in the southern Golan Heights.

The soldier was taking part Tuesday in a minefield-clearing operation, according to the Israel Defense Forces, and was killed when an old anti-tank mine exploded. Two other soldiers were injured.

The mine reportedly was cleared and marked before it exploded. The explosion was believed to be a technical malfunction.

Maj. Gen. Guy Zur, the chief of the Ground Forces Command, appointed a team to investigate the incident, according to the IDF.

The mine-clearing operation is part of ongoing military operations and is not related to recent tension on Israel’s border with Syria.

Bombing suspects in dramatic shootout and manhunt [TIMELINE]


Police emptied the streets of suburban Watertown on Friday in a house-by-house search for a second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, the day after killing his brother in a shootout.

The night of shooting and explosions in the streets followed the authorities' release Thursday of video footage of the two suspects.

Here is a timeline of events:

Thursday, about 5:10 p.m.

The FBI announces law enforcement has identified two men suspected of planting the pressure cooker bombs that killed three people and injured 176 at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Video footage released by the FBI show a man known as suspect No. 1 wearing a dark baseball cap. He was later identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26.

Suspect No. 2, later identified as Tsarnaev's brother, Dzhokhar, 19, was wearing a white cap backwards in the images. The 30-second videos are played repeatedly on national television, and photographs of the suspects are posted online.

Thursday night at 9:04 p.m.

Russian language social networking site VK shows someone logged for the last time out of what appears to be Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's page. The site had been accessed via mobile device.

Thursday night around 10:20 p.m.

Shots are fired at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. At some point, two men rob a 7-Eleven store on campus.

10:30 p.m.

Police discover MIT campus police officer Sean Collier, 26, shot multiple times in his car in an apparent confrontation with the suspects. He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital and pronounced dead.

Shortly after 10:30 p.m.

Police say the two brothers carjack a Mercedes SUV. The owner of the car is held hostage for about a half hour, but is then released. Police chase the SUV into the Boston suburb of Watertown. During the chase, the suspects throw explosives from the car and exchange gunfire with police.

A transit police officer is hurt in the shootout. Witnesses report hearing dozens of gunshots.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev is hit during the shootout. He is taken into custody, transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and later pronounced dead.

Before 1 a.m. Friday

A huge manhunt is launched for the second suspect and hundreds of police officers and FBI agents descend on Watertown.

Between 3 and 4 a.m.

Massachusetts police announce they will conduct a door-to-door search in Watertown. Citizens are warned to stay indoors.

Around 5:30 a.m.

Train service in Boston is suspended.

8 a.m.

Massachusetts officials announce they have expanded the shelter-in-place recommendations for the entire city of Boston, effectively putting the city in lockdown as they search for Tsarnaev.

Compiled based on media reports, official statements from law enforcement and Reuters reporting.

Reporting by Sarah Lynch and Alina Selyukh in Washingtno, Tim McLaughlin, Svea Herbst Bayliss, Stephanie Simon in Boston; Editing by Alistair Bell and Doina Chiacu

Marathon bomb suspect eludes police, hunt shuts Boston down


Black Hawk helicopters and heavily armed police descended on a Boston suburb Friday in a massive search for an ethnic Chechen suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, hours after his brother was killed by police in a late-night shootout.

The normally traffic-clogged streets of Boston were empty as the city went into virtual lockdown after a bloody night of shooting and explosions. Public transport was suspended, air space restricted and famous universities, including Harvard and MIT, closed after police ordered residents to remain at home.

Officials identified the hunted man as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and the dead suspect as his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed Thursday night in the working class suburb of Watertown.

Details emerged on Friday about the brothers, including their origins in the predominantly Muslim regions of Russia's Caucasus, which have experienced two decades of violence since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The fugitive described himself on a social network as a minority from a region that includes Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

A man who said he was their uncle said the brothers came to the United States in the early 2000s and settled in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area.

“I say what I think what's behind it – being losers,” Ruslan Tsarni told reporters in suburban Washington. “Not being able to settle themselves and thereby hating everyone who did.”

Tsarni said he had not spoken to the brothers since 2009.

He said Monday's bombings on the finish line of the world-famous Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured 176 “put a shame on our family. It put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity.”

The bombing, described by President Barack Obama as “an act of terrorism,” was the worst such attack on U.S. soil since the plane hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001.

The FBI said the twin blasts were caused by bombs in pressure cookers and carried in backpacks that were left near the marathon finish line as thousands of spectators gathered.

Authorities cordoned off a section of the suburb of Watertown and told residents not to leave their homes or answer the door as officers in combat gear scoured a 20-block area for the missing man, who was described as armed and dangerous.

The manhunt has covered 60 percent to 70 percent of the search area, Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy Alben said Friday afternoon. “We are progressing through this neighborhood, going door-to-door, street-to-street,” he said.

Two Black Hawk helicopters circled the area. Amtrak said it was suspending train service between Boston and New York indefinitely and the Boston Red Sox postponed Friday night's baseball game at historic Fenway Park.

The events elicited a response from Moscow condemning terrorism and from the Russian-installed leader of Chechnya, who criticized police in Boston for killing an ethnic Chechen and blamed the violence on his upbringing in the United States.

“They grew up and studied in the United States and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there,” Ramzan Kadyrov said in comments posted online. “Any attempt to make a connection between Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs is in vain.”

INTERNET POSTINGS

The brothers had been in the United States for several years and were believed to be legal immigrants, according to U.S. government sources. Neither had been known as a potential security threat, a law enforcement official said on Friday.

A Russian language social networking site bearing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's name paid tribute to Islamic websites and to those calling for Chechen independence. The author identified himself as a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He said he went to primary school in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders on Chechnya, and listed his languages as English, Russian and Chechen.

His “World view” was listed as “Islam” and his “Personal priority” as “career and money.”

He posted links to videos of fighters in Syria's civil war and to Islamic web pages with titles such as “Salamworld, my religion is Islam” and “There is no God but Allah, let that ring out in our hearts.”

He also had links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya, a region of Russia that lost its bid for independence after two wars in the 1990s.

Video posted on NJ.com showed a woman, Alina Tsarnaeva, who described herself as a sister of the suspects.

“I'm not OK, just like anyone else is not OK,” she told reporters from behind the closed door of an apartment in West New York, New Jersey.

She said the older brother “was a great person. He was a kind and loving man. To piss life away, just like he pissed others' life away … “

She said of the younger brother, “He's a child.”

HOUSE-TO-HOUSE SEARCH

In Watertown, the lockdown cleared the streets for police, who raced from one site to the next. The events stunned the former mill town, which has a large Russian-speaking community.

During the night, a university police officer was killed, a transit police officer was wounded, and the suspects carjacked a vehicle before leading police on a chase that led to Tamerlan Tsarnaev being shot dead.

“During the exchange of the gunfire, we believe that one of the suspects was struck and ultimately taken into custody,” Alben said.

The suspect died of multiple injuries including gunshot wounds and trauma, said Dr. Richard Wolfe, chief of emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The older brother was seen wearing a dark cap and sunglasses in surveillance images released by the FBI on Thursday. The younger Tsarnaev was shown wearing a white cap in the pictures, taken shortly before Monday's explosions.

“We believe this to be a terrorist,” said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. “We believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people. We need to get him in custody.”

Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, Alex Dobuzinskis, David Bailey, Peter Graff, Stephanie Simon, Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Aaron Pressman, Daniel Lovering and Ben Berkowitz; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool; Editing by Doina Chiacu

FBI identifies two suspects in Boston Marathon bombing [PHOTOS]


Investigators released pictures of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing on Thursday, seeking the public's help in identifying two backpack-toting men photographed on the crowded sidewalk on Monday before bombs exploded near the finish line.

The blasts that killed three people and wounded 176 began a week of security scares that rattled the United States and evoked memories of the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacked plane attacks.

“Somebody out there knows these individuals as friends, neighbors, co-workers or family members of the suspects,” Richard DesLauriers, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's special agent in charge in Boston, told a news conference.

“Though it may be difficult, the nation is counting on those with information to come forward and provide it to us,” he said.

DesLauriers warned the public that the men were considered armed and dangerous.

Both men carried backpacks that were believed to contain the bombs. The FBI identified suspect No. 1 as a man wearing a dark baseball cap and sunglasses. Suspect No. 2 wore a white cap baseball cap backwards and was seen setting down his backpack on the ground, DesLauriers said.

The FBI released a 30-second video of the two men, one walking behind the other, that edited together three different angles. The video appeared to have been taken from security cameras.

A picture of both men in the same frame was taken at 2:37 p.m., about 13 minutes before the two explosions tore through the crowd that had been cheering on finishers of the race.

Investigators believe the bombs were made of pressure cookers packed with shrapnel. Some of the wounded suffered gruesome injuries and at least 10 people lost limbs as a result of the blasts.

Investigators hoped the men would be identifiable within hours of the release of the pictures and video, a national security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Investigators were looking at the men for some period of time before deciding to make the videos public, and they had extensive video and still pictures to justify the FBI decision to label the two men as suspects, the official said.

At least one other person of interest who featured in crime scene pictures had been ruled out as a suspect. Also ruled out earlier in the week was a Saudi student who was injured in the attacks, the official said.

OBAMA IN BOSTON

President Barack Obama sought to bring solace to Boston and the nation in an interfaith service at a cathedral about a mile (1.6 km) from the bomb site, declaring “You will run again” and vowing to catch whoever was responsible.

He promised resilience in a message directed toward Boston but also to a country that was on edge.

A man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of mailing the deadly poison ricin to Obama and a massive explosion at a fertilizer factory devastated a small Texas community, sending shockwaves at least 50 miles (80 km) away.

Obama said the country stood in solidarity with the victims of the Boston bombs on their road to recovery.

“As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you, your commonwealth is with you, your country is with you,” Obama said. “We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that, I have no doubt. You will run again.”

After his speech, Obama met with volunteers and Boston Marathon organizers, many of whom cared for the injured, and with victims at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The bombs in Boston killed an 8-year-old boy, Martin Richard; a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell; and a Boston University graduate student and Chinese citizen, Lu Lingzi.

Before his visit, Obama declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts, making federal funding available to the state as it copes with the aftermath of the bombing. 

Suspects wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 are revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Photos of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings are seen during a news conference in Boston, Massachusetts April 18, 2013. The FBI said on Thursday that it has identified two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing and is asking the public for help in identifying the two men. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Reporting By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

In the wake of Boston Marathon bombings, Israeli Independence Day fetes are toned down


Israeli Independence Day celebrations in Boston were muted and security was increased in the wake of bombings that left three dead and dozens injured at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Mike Rosenberg, director of community relations at Maimonides, a Jewish day school in suburban Brookline, said an event Tuesday commemorating Israel's 65th anniversary had been toned down out of respect for the victims of the attack and their families.

“Messages have gone out to parents and students that in the context of yesterday's events, there will be no dancing and more [words of Torah],” he said.

The Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston called off a flag-raising ceremony for Israel's Independence Day, leaving its flags at half-mast.

Shira Strosberg, the school's director of communications, said security in and around its campus was ratcheted up.

“We are obviously saddened and everybody came to school today with a heavy heart,” she said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the bombings.”

At a Yom Haatzmaut celebration in Los Angeles Monday evening, sponsored by the Israeli Consulate, security was tightened signifcantly, a spokewoman said, and prayers were offered both by Israeli Consul General David Siegel and by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the event's honoree.

No one has taken responsibility for the two explosions near the finish line and there was no indication Jewish institutions were at any particular risk. Nonetheless, community officials told JTA they remained vigilant.

‘Running Rabbi’ recounts chaos at Boston Marathon, vows to run in next year’s race


“It was a beautiful day. I was so excited to run and having such a good run. The crowd was unbelievable. The whole experience was amazing. It was almost magical.”

That’s how the Boston Marathon began for Rabbi Benjamin David, head rabbi at Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel, N.J. It’s not how it ended.

David, 36, had completed the marathon and was back at his hotel when the twin explosions went off Monday afternoon near the finish line. The apparent terrorist attack killed at least three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and wounded more than 140, some critically.

David was running with Rabbi Scott Weiner, senior rabbi of Temple Israel of New Rochelle in suburban New York's Westchester County. The two rabbinical school friends are co-founders of the national organization The Running Rabbis, which encourages clergy — Jewish and not — and their congregants to run. They always run for a charity and their race in the Boston Marathon raised money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

David had an additional motivation for running. Although he had run 20 half-marathons and 13 marathons, David had never run the Boston Marathon and he wanted to beat his personal best time of 3 hours, 23 minutes. After 10 months of training, he did just that, running the 26.2 miles in 3 hours, 21 minutes. Weiner was one minute ahead of him.

From his hotel room two blocks from the blast site, David explained Monday night what happened next.

“Usually at these big races, it takes a while to exit the area because you pick up the medal and your tote bag and shuffle along because you are so tired,” David said. “Getting out of the finish area took us at least a half hour. We went to the hotel, and I was about to put my hand on the door to go into the lobby when I heard a massive explosion. It was an extraordinary sound. You knew instantly that something was wrong.”

David knew what kind of wrong that was. He was in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, blocks away from the World Trade Center at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Rabbi Benjamin David, having finished the Boston Marathon earlier, was at his hotel room two blocks from the site of the two bombs when they exploded. (Courtesy Rabbi Benjamin David)

“In my mind, I instantly compared it to when I was in New York on 9/11,” he said. “I mean, it was a different sound. But when the first plane hit the tower, it was a sound like a sound you don’t normally hear. That’s what this was today. A sound that you don’t normally hear and your brain says, ‘Is something wrong?’ Then today when we heard the second bomb, like when there was the second plane on 9/11. Then we knew for sure that something was very wrong.

“People were running toward the scene and away from the scene,” David said. “Police were scrambling. The hardest part is that no one knew what happened, so you don’t know what to do. We thought maybe the grandstand had collapsed, or a building. I grabbed someone, and he said that two bombs went off.

“I went up to my room and put on the news,” he said. “Isn’t that strange? Here I am, two blocks from the thing, and my instinct is still to turn on the TV to see what happened. But then, from the window in my room, I could see basically everything. So the local news was on and there was confusion and speculation, and I’m looking out the window and looking right at what is being called a terrorist attack.”

Other than using the word “surreal,” David didn’t get into details about what he saw.

“You know one weird thing? They stopped the race in progress,” he said. “I heard on the news that there were supposedly 4,500 people still on the course. I wonder what happened to them. What were they told? What was it like for them, not knowing what was happening?”

Luckily, David’s family did know what was happening with him. Like most other marathoners, he had a chip on his clothes that enabled the tracking of his progress via a secure website.

“I knew that he was finished with the race, and I texted him to see how it went and he texted back, ‘Turn on the news,’ ” said his father, Rabbi Jerome David of Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, N.J. “I was shaken, even though I knew he was safe. It brought back memories of 9/11 because Ben and his brother John were both very close to the Trade Center that morning and we couldn’t reach either of them. This time, at least I heard from him. But even so, it’s the same feeling. It’s worrying about your child — and I know very well that he is a grown man — but he is my child. And he was again in the middle of danger. And there was nothing I could do about it right then.”

A friend called David’s mother, Peggy, on her cell phone.

“I was on a break from work and had just turned my phone on when a friend called and said, ‘There was a bombing near the finish line,’ ” Peggy David recounted. “I was sure he was done and I know that he usually goes back to the hotel pretty quickly. But I didn’t know exactly where he was when the bomb went off. Then his wife sent out a group text saying that he was OK.”

David’s wife, Lisa, the mother of their three young children, was tracking her husband’s progress and received an immediate text from him about his safety. That was a good thing because within hours she was aboard a plane headed for Israel on a business trip. She is associate director of camping for the Union for Reform Judaism’s Camp and Israel Programs.

Dr. Steve Gitler, president of Adath Emanu-El, found out about the bombing via a text from his daughter.

“She texted, ‘Is Rabbi alright?’ and I answered, ‘What do you mean?’ and she wrote back, ‘There were explosions in Boston.’ I went to CNN.com and read what happened. Then I got the text that Rabbi was OK, and I posted a message on our synagogue’s Facebook page, then sent an email to the board and sent an email to the congregation so that everyone knew he was OK.”

Rabbi Richard Levine, the rabbi emeritus of Adath Emanu-El who led the congregation for more than 46 years, heard the news on KYW-1060 radio.

“I knew that Ben was trying to run the marathon in less than 3 hours and 20 or so minutes, so I thought that he was done and probably safe, but that didn’t mean he was,” Levine said. “We texted back and forth so I knew that he was OK. But I was still very worried for a period of time. You don’t want someone you care about to be in harm’s way.”

In fact, Levine thinks the timing of the bombings was deliberately set to harm as many people as possible. A former distance runner himself, Levine knows how marathons are staged.

“Sometimes in these races, they stagger the start times and have the all-star runners go first, then there is a break, then another class of runners goes and another follows,” he said. “Anyone who did some homework would know that the vast majority of runners — the average runners who are not professionals — finish the Boston Marathon right at about the time that the bombs exploded. At that time, people are crossing the finish line en masse. And these are people who run purely because they love to run and want to be part of the Boston Marathon.

“So were the bombs intentionally set to explode then? Yes, I believe so.”

If there was any blessing in this, Levine said, it was that medical personnel were at the finish line waiting for runners and they immediately helped the injured.

David’s father, who was also a runner, sees other silver linings in the day’s events.

“In a moment, your whole life can change,” he said. “You start off in one direction and then it goes in another. It also reminds you of what is important and that is family, health and friendship. I am a rabbi and lead my congregation, but I am also a father and grandfather and tonight, I needed the support of my congregants. I went to a men’s study group and an executive board meeting and was surrounded by friends and supporters. Rabbis need that, too, you know.”

His son also got the support he needed.

“On my end, people were just remarkably kind and forthcoming,” the younger David said. “My phone has not stopped ringing for seven hours. It’s been calls, texts, Facebook. Everyone knew that I was doing this race. The congregation and my family and friends have been amazingly supportive today.”

But he still had to deal with the logistics of being two blocks from a terrorist attack. And he had just run 26.2 miles. He was hungry after the race, but when he tried to get something to eat in the hotel lobby, the police came in and “kicked us out of the hotel because they didn’t want large crowds gathering. They wouldn’t let me back in, even though I said that I was a guest.”

So he went to the house of his wife’s college roommate three or four blocks from the hotel and took refuge there for an hour, he said, before returning to the hotel.

“And then again I realized that I forgot to eat,” David said. He went in search of food, encountering a “horrible” scene outside, with barricades and police everywhere. He found an open restaurant,  a Cheesecake Factory, where there was an hour wait for seating. So he took something to go and returned to his hotel room.

David described his state just hours after the attack as” feeling dazed.”

“My body is, like, exhausted. Annihilated. The marathon is so emotional and you spend so much time preparing,” he said. “God willing it goes well and it’s an accomplishment. And I do feel that accomplishment. But then, there are people who died today and they died right outside my window.”

But he also had a different view he was trying to maintain.

“Today, we saw what looks like hate and violence. But what I also saw was a day of togetherness and community and caring and support — much like the Marathon itself,” he said. “Every marathon is about celebrating the human spirit and supporting one another. It’s about people from around the country and around the world, from different backgrounds and different religions running together. That is what I will remember from today, from before the bombing and right after it.

“Tragedy reduces things to the most primal and most important factors,” he said. “Family, friends, community and what strangers need help.”

In the attacks both on 9/11 and on Monday, he said, “we will see the best in humanity come out.”

“And one more thing: I will run the Boston Marathon next year,” David said. “Nothing will keep me from it.”

A prayer of hope after the Boston Marathon bombing


“Behold days are coming, says the Lord…and they shall rebuild.” From our Haftarah this Shabbat Amos 9:13

God of peace, God of healing
God of the grief-stricken,
We call You, we invoke You
We pray to You:
Oh my God, we called out to You
as a day of celebration
Turned to mourning.
Oh my God
The shock
The senselessness
Innocent lives cut short
Wounded victims
Heartbreaking cries of panic and grief.
But through the darkness came
The light
The hope
The heroes
The selfless caring of first responders
Arms extended in comfort and love,
Your messengers on earth.
God, send comfort to grieving families,
Send healing to the wounded,
Send wisdom and strength to doctors and nurses
Send calm to hearts filled with panic.
Bless us with peace, God,
Show us that we will rebuild
In the face of tragedy. 
Grant us the power and wisdom
To bring justice to those who harm us.
Teach us that we will triumph over terror.     
We will not let this tragedy twist our spirits
We choose hope over fear.
We are resilient, we are strong
We are one nation under God
We will come together, hand in hand
We will rebuild.
Amen.


Rabbi Naomi Levy is spiritual leader of Nashuva, and the author of Hope Will Find You and Talking to God. This prayer was distributed by the Rabbinical Assembly.

Who bombed Boston? Word for now is caution


The day after the Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama called it an “act of terrorism.” What kind of terrorism, no one was ready to say — a caution that derives from years of wrongful speculation that on occasion has ruined innocent lives.

Hours after the attack Monday that killed three and injured scores, Obama in a television address refrained from using the word “terrorism.” He did use it Tuesday, but wrapped it deep in caveats.

“Given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism,” Obama said in a White House briefing. “Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic; or was it the act of a malevolent individual. That's what we don't yet know.”

Jewish groups and officials who track such incidents took the same tack, declining to engage in conjecture given the limited information about the attack.

“We know that unfortunately 30 percent of terrorist attacks had Jewish institutions as secondary targets,” said Paul Goldenberg, the director of the Secure Community Network, the security arm of the national Jewish community, on Monday. “However, I must stress that there is absolutely nothing here that indicates any connection to an attack on the Jewish community. But based on history, we are standing vigilant for at least the next 48 hours.” 

Race officials, police and runners react following two explosions at the Boston Marathon in Boston, Mass., on April 15. Photo by MetroWest Daily News/Ken McGagh/Reuters

Over the last year, evidence has emerged that Hezbollah and others acting on behalf of Iran have stepped up plans to attack Jewish and Israeli targets, partially in response to increased pressure on Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program. There has also been evidence since Obama’s 2008 election of intensified domestic violence by anti-government and white supremacist groups.

The Anti-Defamation League in an April 8 security bulletin noted that the week of April 20 — Hitler's birthday — is a period of heightened alert due to the history of right-wing violence that coincides with it. The violence includes the 1993 storming of the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas, and the Oklahoma City bombing, both on April 19.

“As a consequence of these anniversaries and the symbolism and significance of these dates, anti-government extremist groups, such as militia groups, may target April 19,” the ADL said. “Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups have a history of staging events on or close to April 20.”

The low-tech nature of the device used in Boston — a “pressure cooker” that relays shrapnel upon explosion — suggests that the attacker was not part of a sophisticated network, said David Schanzer, a terrorism expert at Duke University.

“The only thing we do know is the amount of damage and destruction and power these bombs have,” Schanzer said. “It was a successful bomb but it didn't bring the buildings down. That tells you something about the bomber and the types of materials used. If a group was determined and capable of planting a bomb in this particular spot, it would want to use the most sophisticated bomb they were capable of creating.”

From left: Boston Marathon runners Lisa Kresky-Griffin, Diane Deigmann and Tammy Snyder embrace at the barricaded entrance at Boylston Street, near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Mass., on April 16. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Schanzer was careful to qualify even that insight, saying there were some scenarios in which a sophisticated group might consider using a crude device. Such caution derives from multiple speculations over the years that ultimately have embarrassed their purveyors and in some cases had dire consequences.

Some experts at first blamed the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building on Muslim extremists, but anti-government extremists were found to be the culprits. Law enforcement authorities leaked the name of Richard Jewell, a private security guard, as a person of interest following the 1996 bombing attack at the Atlanta Olympics. Though Jewell ultimately was vindicated, he spent the rest of his life trying to regain a semblance of normalcy. Jewell died in 2007 at 44.

Matthew Levitt, a former FBI analyst who now directs the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s counterterrorism project, said he expected more information would soon become available. Agents were scouring the bombing area for DNA and reviewing the wealth of video likely collected by hundreds of marathon watchers.

“When something does go boom, there's no one better than the FBI at this,” Levitt said. “There's a tremendous number of people working on this all over the world.”

Police officers and military personell gather in Boston Common following the Boston Marathon Bombing on April 15. Photo by Laurie Hasencamp.

Explosives detonate near Gaza border, damaging Israeli army vehicle


Explosives detonated near the border fence with Gaza damaged an Israeli military vehicle.

Terrorists planted the explosives that were detonated Tuesday while the Israeli army's engineering unit was working near the fence, the Israel Defense Forces said. The unit was searching for explosive charges that intelligence reports said were buried in the area.

The IDF said the detonation on the border was the first since the end of the weeklong Operation Pillar of Defense in November.

Meanwhile, the IDF on Monday moved two Iron Dome missile defense batteries to southern Israel in the wake of rocket attacks from Gaza, including one on the evening of Holocaust Remembrance Day that disrupted ceremonies in the area.

French teens arrested for chemical explosion near teacher who reported anti-Semitism


Two French teenagers were arrested on suspicion of setting off an explosion near a teacher after she reported receiving anti-Semitic threats at school.

The teenagers, 16 and 19 years old, were arrested on Dec. 13 in Aix-en-Provence near Marseille in southern France for allegedly setting off a chemical explosion in the classroom of their plastic arts teacher, according to France Info, a public radio station. No one was hurt in the explosion.

The teacher, Chantal Viroulou, told the radio station that before the incident, “students from that class, two or three of them at least, called me and told me: 'Jew, we will break your face.'” Viroulou, who teaches at the Latecoere professional high school in the town of Istres, did not say whether she was Jewish.

An unnamed police source told Ouest France, a local daily, that Viroulou is not Jewish and that “the anti-Semitic connotation” is not being investigated. The source added that the explosion — which the two suspects allegedly caused by mixing hydrochloric acid with aluminium — “had nothing to do” with the threat.

Earlier this week, the news site Lyonmag reported that a teacher undergoing conversion was fired after she reported repeated anti-Semitic harassment by her pupils at Condorcet secondary school in Saint-Priest, a southern suburb of Lyon.

The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism, a French nonprofit, wrote on Dec. 13 to France's minister of education to ask him to launch a special action against “the development of anti-Semitic acts and behavior” in French schools.

Malmo police see no reason to call JCC attack a hate crime


Police in Malmo, Sweden, said they had “no indication” that a recent attack on the offices of the local Jewish community was a hate crime.

The police arrested and later released two 18-year-old men suspected of hurling a brick and a large firecracker at the entrance of the community’s offices on Sept. 28. The building sustained some damage but no one was hurt.

“The suspects never said or indicated they were perpetrating a hate crime,” Anders Lindell, a Malmo police officer and spokesman, told JTA. He added that the suspects denied any involvement in the attack. The investigation is ongoing, he said.

Willy Silberstein of the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism, a Stockholm-based NGO, told JTA that he found the decision “very strange.”

“When such incidents are not classified as hate crimes, it does not add to the credibility of government figures on anti-Semitism,” he said.

Sweden has approximately 20,000 Jews, according to the European Jewish Congress. Several hundred of them live in Malmo, according to Fredrik Sieradski, a spokesman for the Malmo Jewish congregation.

In 2011, The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention reported 190 anti-Semitic crimes in all of Sweden.

Attack on Malmo’s Jewish community triggers solidarity rallies


Some 70 demonstrators reportedly gathered in Malmö, Sweden, outside the local Jewish community center, to show solidarity with the Jewish community following an attack on its offices.

Hundreds are expected to attend a similar event Oct. 7 in Stockholm.

According to the daily Varlden Idag, the Malmö gathering Sept. 27 took place hours after two small charges exploded outside the building and bricks were hurled at its entrance. The building sustained some damage but no one was injured in the attack.

Malmö's police arrested two 18-year-old men shortly after the incident, but released them hours later. They are still considered suspects in the case, as their car was seen driving away from the scene of the explosion shortly after it happened, according to the paper.

Both denied any involvement in the explosion, Anders Lindell, a Malmö police officer and spokesman, told JTA.

At least two hundred people are expected to gather Oct. 7 at Stockholm's Raoul Wallenberg Square for a rally meant to show solidarity with Malmö's Jews.

“This attack will only make us speak up more clearly about our right to be Jewish and appear Jewish in Sweden,” said Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, a Jewish activist. She is co-organizing the solidarity rally with the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism and the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities.

Last month Hernroth-Rothstein used Facebook to organize a show of solidarity with Israel in the Swedish capital which was attended by approximately 1,200 people.

Mona Sahlin, leader of the Swedish opposition, has said she would address the crowd at the solidarity gathering, along with several other Swedish politicians.

Members of Malmö's Jewish community began last year holding marches in Malmö in protest of frequent harassment. Community members speak of dozens of incidents every year, mostly from members of the city's large Muslim and Middle Eastern population.

Last month dozens of Jews from Denmark arrived in Malmö to show their solidarity with the city's Jews, who number approximately 1,000.

Attack on Jewish community in Sweden follows surge of hate crimes


A Jewish community building in Malmö, Sweden was attacked overnight between Thursday and Friday with explosives and bricks.

“I was shocked that this happened now,” Fred Kahn, president of the Jewish Community in Malmö told the TT news agency. “Jewish institutions in Sweden are under constant threat, but we have not noticed anything out of the ordinary recently.”

The community building houses a kindergarten, meeting halls and apartments. Nobody was injured in the explosion, which, according to witnesses, could be heard several blocks away.

According to local police, witnesses saw two speeding cars leaving the scene of the explosion. The police managed to stop one of the vehicles and arrested two 18-year-old men on suspicion of causing severe damage. The police suspect more people were involved in planning and executing the attack.

Read more at haaretz.com.

Swedish police arrest two after explosion rocks Jewish building


Swedish police arrested two men in connection with an explosion that rocked a Jewish community building in Malmö.

The explosion took place early in the morning on Sept. 28, according to Fred Kahn, board chairman of the Malmö Jewish community.

“There was an explosion and someone also threw a rock at the windows at the entrance to the community house,” he said.

The suspects, both 18, have no prior criminal record, according to the daily Skanska Dagbladet. Both denied any involvement in the explosion, according to Anders Lindell, a Malmö police officer and spokesman.

[Related: My Shabbat in Malmo by Rabbi Abraham Cooper]

“Witness reports led us to arrest the two suspects near, but not immediately at the scene,” Lindell said, adding that “the forensics report from the scene of the crime is finished but needs to be reviewed.” 

Kahn added, “We are shocked by this incident, which was definitely a deliberate attack. The community has upped its security arrangements, but we are continuing as usual. The Jewish kindergarten is going to stay open, and all services will continue.”

Hannah Rosenthal, the Obama administration’s outgoing special envoy for combating anti-Semitism, has accused Reepalu in the past of making “anti-Semitic statements.” 

Reepalu has advised Jews who want to be safe in Malmö to reject Zionism. He also has said that the Jewish community had been “infiltrated” by anti-Muslim agents and has denied that Muslims perpetrated the attacks on Malmö Jews.

On a Sunday earlier this month, dozens of Jews from Denmark visited Malmö to express their solidarity with the city’s Jewish community. 

700 out of 14 million: Why the fate of Malmö’s Jews matters


I can’t say I was shocked by the phone call and emails from Scandinavia that I received one night after Yom Kippur, telling me that the Jewish Community Center in Malmö, Sweden, had been attacked with an explosive device and bricks through its reinforced entrance just after midnight on Sept. 28. No casualties, thank G-d, this time.

I am not surprised, because precious little has changed since the Wiesenthal Center’s mission to Malmö in December 2011 where we had face-to-face meetings with the city’s police chief, prosecutor and its mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, who long ago made a decision to let the 700 Jewish citizens twist in the wind in order to curry favor with Islamist extremists and virulent opponents of Israel. There are approximately 70,000 Muslims in Malmö.

Incredible, here was a democratically elected administration that had no budget and no stomach to protect its Jews. Here was a democratically elected official who went out of his way to inject the conflict in the Holy Land into the narrative and onto the streets of his city.

Following the shocking 2010 firebombing of a synagogue there, along with assaults on a pro-Israel demonstration and a series of other anti-Semitic incidents, the Simon Wiesenthal Center had had enough and slapped a Travel Advisory on Malmö. A few months ago, Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. State Department’s Envoy on Anti-Semitism, traveled to Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, to make a direct and personal plea to Mayor Reepalu, on behalf of the Obama Administration, to change course. He didn’t. As a result, that ban still stands today, and unless and until local, or if necessary, national authorities can secure the Jewish community and its institutions, the ban will remain.

[Related: Swedish police arrest two after explosion rocks Jewish building]

[Related: My Shabbat in Malmo by Rabbi Abraham Cooper]

 

Still, it is fair to ask, in the greater scheme of things, with Iran’s looming existential threat to Israel, with 700,000 French Jews on edge after the terrorist murders at a Toulouse Jewish school of a young rabbi and three kids– including an eight year-old girl executed at point-blank range—do the 700 Jews of Malmö merit our continued concern and activism?

Maybe they should just leave…Considering that young Rabbi Kesselman and his family are serially abused by anti-Semites with nary an arrest, that just last week his car was singled out for vandalism with the word Palestina engraved on its side, perhaps Daisy Balkin Rung, who was born in Malmö, is right when she posted a call on a Swedish TV blog for Jews to leave Malmö before it is too late, making a parallel to Germany in the 1930s. “I call upon all Jews in Malmö to leave the city,” she wrote.

Perhaps, in the end, the Jews may yet have to leave, but if they do — Malmö, Sweden, could become a template for other European cities, in other democracies. If Jews are driven from Malmo, it will empower every anti-Semite, neo-Nazi, Islamist fanatic, and lone wolf terrorist in every western democracy to target US.

While we can be grateful that no one was hurt in this latest attack, there is a Jewish dictum: Ayn Soamchin Al Haness—we cannot rely on miracles to secure the safety of Jewish children. Clearly time is running out for Malmö.

Let us, the 14,000,000, help the 700 draw the line and force the powers that be in Sweden to finally provide equal protection under the law to their Jewish citizens. If they fail to do so, our Jewish brothers and sisters will find new lives in Israel and elsewhere—that is, after all, the Jewish way—but Sweden’s traditions of democratic rule of law, fairness, and tolerance will be left in shambles.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Bulgarian police release photo of bomb attack accomplice


Bulgarian police released a computer-generated image and a fake driver’s license photo of a man believed to be an accomplice in the bombing of an Israeli tour bus in Burgas that killed six.

The fake Michigan driver’s license is registered to Jacques Philippe Martin, but investigators have learned that the man from the photo introduced himself by other names, according to the Focus information agency.

The man appears to be wearing a wig in the license photo. It was originally believed that the license belonged to the dead suicide bomber, but it was later determined to belong to an accomplice.

Five Israelis and the bus driver were killed in the July 18 attack on a tour bus full of Israeli tourists shortly after boarding in the Burgas airport.

Eilat explosions believed to be rocket attack


Two loud explosions heard in Eilat are believed to have been caused by a long-range Grad rocket attack.

After the Wednesday evening explosions, security forces began searching the area for the rockets, which could have been fired from the Sinai.

No reports of injuries or damage were logged following the alleged attack in the southern Israeli city, a popular resort area.

A beach concert by the Israeli singer Eyal Golan was stopped after 10 minutes due to the alleged threat.

Rockets have been fired at Eilat and its environs from the Sinai several times in the past two years.

In June, two rockets landed in open areas near Mitzpe Ramon and Ovda, near Eilat. In April, at least two rockets struck Eilat in an empty area near an apartment building. In 2010, rockets struck both Eilat and Aqaba, Jordan.

Jewish organizations raising funds to help victims of the attack in Bulgaria


Jewish organizations are reaching out to help the victims of Wednesday’s terror attack by a suicide bomber in Bulgaria, which killed five Israeli tourists and a bus driver and wounded more than 30 others. To help, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Orthodox Union all are soliciting funds to aid the wounded and the families of those killed.

“It’s very important symbolically for the people of Israel to know and to feel that Jewish organizations around the world are stepping up and thinking of them and participating in this,” said David Siegel, the Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles.

The deadly attack took place aboard a bus filled with Israeli tourists in the international airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, a popular tourist destination for Israelis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has named the Iranian terrorist organization of Hezbollah as responsible for the attack.

Of the five Israelis who were killed, two of them were fathers in their 20s with young children. Three people were critically injured, and at least 30 were injured to various degrees, according to Siegel.

The Israeli government has programs to help victims of terrorist attacks and their families, including paying for medical care, disability costs, trauma care and other expenses – but it cannot cover everything, Siegel said. Therefore, organizations are helping to “address supplemental needs not covered by Israeli government bodies,” according to an announcement Thursday from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Donations to help the victims can be made via the Web sites of the L.A. Federation, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Orthodox Union. Building up a contribution made by the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel is raising funds via its Fund for the Victims of Terror program. Since its founding in 2002, the Fund for the Victims of Terror program has provided financial assistance to Israeli victims of rocket attacks from Gaza.

What Israeli government can provide victims is determined on a case-by-case basis, Siegel said. Non-governmental funding, however, can be used for everything from education costs for families where the primary breadwinner was killed, to burial costs and long-term medical care, according to Jay Sanderson, CEO and president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

The L.A. Federation promises to donate “100 percent of collected donations” and “absorb all administrative costs,” according to a statement released today.

“Whatever we can do to make a difference, that’s the approach we are taking,” Sanderson said, adding that the Jewish Agency for Israel will take the lead on administering the funds raised to the victims and their families.

To donate, visit:

Blast hits Egypt gas pipeline serving Jordan, Israel


An Egyptian pipeline carrying gas to Israel and Jordan was bombed on Monday, the 13th such attack since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011, witnesses said.

The attack on the installation that crosses the increasingly volatile Sinai region occurred in the Massaeed area west of the Mediterranean coastal town of al-Arish, in north Sinai.

Witnesses in al-Arish told Reuters that two blasts were set off within 15 m (yards) of each other using remote-controlled explosive devices.

The bombs were planted by at least six armed men who arrived in two pickup trucks, the witnesses added.

Security in Sinai was relaxed after Mubarak’s fall as the police presence thinned out across Egypt.

No group has claimed responsibility for the pipeline attacks.

Egypt’s 20-year gas deal with Israel, signed in the Mubarak era, is unpopular with some Egyptians, with critics accusing Israel of not paying enough for the fuel.

Previous explosions sometimes have forced weeks-long shutdowns along the pipeline run by Gasco, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS.

Gasco said it had resumed pumping gas to households and industrial factories in al-Arish and began experimental pumping to Jordan and Israel last week.

The pipeline has been shut since an explosion on Feb. 5.

Egypt said in November it would tighten security along the pipeline by installing alarms and recruiting security patrols from Bedouin tribesmen in the area.

Reporting By Yusri Mohamed; Writing by Tamim Elyan; Editing by Michael Roddy.

Iranian national believed responsible for Thai blasts


Bombs that exploded in a Bangkok house being shared by an Iranian national were being prepared for a large-scale attack against an Israeli target, unnamed Israeli officials are quoted as saying.

The unnamed officials made their remarks to the Israel media on Tuesday.

The Iranian national, who shared the home in a residential neighborhood of the Thailand capital with two other non-Thais, was seriously injured by a bomb he was carrying shortly after the house exploded Tuesday morning. He had thrown a hand grenade at police as they pursued him following the home explosion, but did not throw it far enough and was caught in the blast, which tore off his legs, according to reports.

At least four Thai citizens also were injured in the blasts, which occurred several blocks from the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok.

The explosions came a day after Israeli diplomats were targeted by bombs in New Delhi and Tbilisi; the India blast injured the wife of an Israeli diplomat. Israel has blamed the attacks on Iran.

“The attempted attack in Bangkok proves once again that Iran and its proxies are continuing to perpetrate terrorism,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement from Singapore. “The recent attacks are yet another example of this.”

Barak, who spent a few hours in Bangkok on Sunday, also said that “Iran and Hezbollah are elements of unrelenting terrorism and are endangering the stability not only of the region but of the entire world.”

Last month, 400 boxes of bomb-making material were found hidden in boxes for electric fans in a shop near Bangkok. Police learned of the cache from a Lebanese man arrested Jan. 13 who was alleged to be working with Hezbollah to plan a bombing attack. He told Thai police that the material was to be smuggled out of Thailand and used in an attack in another country.

Interior Minister: Suicide bomb kills 26 in Syria


A suicide bomber killed 26 people and wounded 63 in Damascus on Friday, Syria’s interior minister said, vowing an “iron fist” response to the carnage in the heart of the Syrian capital after similar attacks two weeks ago.

The blast came two days before an Arab League committee was due to discuss an initial report by Arab observers who are checking Syria’s compliance with an Arab plan to halt President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on nearly 10 months of unrest.

The meeting may decide whether to continue the mission or to refer Syria to the United Nations Security Council, perhaps paving the way for some form of international action, a scenario that many Arab countries are keen to avoid.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said he was sending a message with Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based leader of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, asking the Syrian government to work “with integrity” to halt the violence.

Interior Minister Ibrahim Shaar, quoted by state television, said 26 people had been killed in the blast in the Maidan district of Damascus, including 15 who could not be identified because their bodies had been shredded in the blast.

“We will strike back with an iron fist at anyone tempted to tamper with the security of the country or its citizens,” he said. He said that about 63 people had been wounded.

Some in the opposition said the government itself had staged the attack to try to show that it is fighting blind violence rather than a pro-democracy movement.

State television showed body parts, bloodstains and broken glass from the explosion. Several riot police shields were shown near a wrecked bus that was among several damaged vehicles.

On December 23 at least 44 people were killed by what Syrian authorities said were two suicide bombings that targeted security buildings in the Syrian capital, one day before the head of the Arab League observer mission arrived there.

GRISLY FOOTAGE

Syrian television footage of Friday’s blast showed yellow caution tape stretched around the wrecked bus and cars with smashed windows in a street. People collected body parts on blue plastic sheets amid pools of blood and scattered shoes.

Arab monitors in white baseball caps and orange vests inspected the area, taking notes and filming. A local police station was visible, apparently untouched by the explosion.

The TV showed crowds of angry locals gathered at the scene, chanting “God, Syria and Bashar only” and “God protect the army” and “With blood and soul we sacrifice for you Bashar.”

The monitors confirmed they had visited the scene. “We are only here to observe and document,” one of them told Reuters by telephone.

Syria bars most independent journalists from the country, making first-hand reporting impossible.

However, a BBC Arabic service reporter was able to accompany three Arab monitors on a five-hour visit to the town of Irbine, on the outskirts of Damascus, the BBC reported.

It was the first time foreign media were known to have been able to cover the activities of the monitors directly, although media access was a condition stipulated by the Arab League.

The BBC said it had been able to film, unhindered by the security forces, an anti-Assad protest in Irbine.

Protesters and residents told the observers, all Algerian diplomats, of harsh treatment at the hands of the security forces. The observers then witnessed a demonstration in which the crowd demanded Assad’s execution, the BBC said.

The League’s special committee on Syria is due to meet in Cairo on Sunday to debate the initial findings of the observer mission, which has been criticized by Syrian activists who question its ability to assess violence on the ground.

Arab states are wary of instability in Syria, which the Arab League has suspended for failing to honor its first peace plan. Syria has been a major regional player, allied with Iran and the Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah group.

Hezbollah, a political and militant group that fought a war with Israel in 2006, blamed the United States for the blast.

“This is a second step in the plan by evil American forces and those under its control in our region to punish Syria for its firm support of resistance forces against the Zionist enemy (Israel) and the West,” it said on its website.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in the popular uprising against Assad. The government says “terrorists” have killed 2,000 members of the security forces during the revolt.

FATE OF ARAB MISSION

The monitors began work on the streets on December 26 to try to verify whether the government was keeping its promise to pull troops and tanks out of cities and free thousands of detainees.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA), an armed opposition force composed mainly of army deserters, condemned the Maidan attack and blamed the Syrian authorities. “This is planned and systematic state terrorism by the security forces of President Bashar al-Assad,” FSA spokesman Major Maher al-Naimi said.

An opposition activist, who asked not to be named, said Islamist militants were taking hold in Syria and may have been behind the blast. “I think we will be seeing more of these attacks in the coming days, I am sorry to say,” he said.

One Damascus resident, who gave her name only as Dima, said the city had been tense even before the blast. “Some friends who work in the security forces were warning my family since yesterday to stay at home,” she said. “The streets were empty.”

The violence in Syria has raged unabated since the Arab monitors arrived, with scores of people reported killed.

Security forces killed four protesters in Hama on Friday when they shot at people shouting anti-Assad slogans after weekly prayers, activists said.

Pro-Assad forces also wounded at least three protesters when they fired at a crowd at a Damascus mosque in a district where a security headquarters is located, a witness said.

The witness said pro-Assad militiamen and secret police agents fired water cannon and then assault rifles after the protesters in the Kfar Souseh district refused to disperse.

“I saw three people on the ground and I do not know if they are dead or alive,” said the witness, who lives nearby.

Arab government sources said on Thursday the League monitors would pursue their mission in Syria, despite criticism from Qatar’s prime minister that they had made mistakes.

Syrian activists say the Arab monitors have had inadequate access to trouble spots, a charge denied by Damascus.

Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Tim Pearce

Explosion at Iranian steel mill remains unexplained


Seven people, including foreign nationals, were killed in an explosion at an Iranian steel mill that has been linked to the country’s nuclear program.

The explosion occurred Sunday night at the Ghadir steelworks. The plant opened six months ago.

Some of the foreign dead are believed to be North Korean nuclear experts, according to reports. The mill reportedly is processing North Korean steel in order to produce the proper grade of steel to construct centrifuges for uranium enrichment.

Iranian news reports said a gas leak caused the blast, but other reports indicated that the explosion may have been the result of sabotage.

The explosion comes weeks after two other unexplained explosions at sites linked to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Iranian blast cause unknown


The cause of an explosion that rocked an Iranian city that houses a key nuclear facility remains unclear.

Monday’s explosion in Isfahan reportedly caused windows to shake throughout the city.

The local government told news agencies that the explosion was part of a military drill. Some news agencies said the explosion came from a gas depot.

The Isfahan uranium conversion plant is supervised and frequently visited by the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Earlier this month, an explosion at an Iranian ammunition depot killed Gen. Hasan Moghaddam and 16 other Revolutionary Guard members. Israel’s Mossad intelligency agency was suspected in that blast.

[UPDATE] Sound of blast reported in Iran’s Isfahan City, home to key nuclear facility


The sound of an apparent explosion was heard from Iran’s Isfahan city on Monday afternoon, the head of the judiciary in the province said, but the province’s deputy governor denied that there had been a big blast.

“In the afternoon, there was a noise like an explosion, but we don’t have any information from security forces on the source of the noise,” provincial judiciary head Gholamreza Ansari was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

However, Mehr news agency quoted Deputy Governor Mohammad Mehdi Ismaili as saying: “So far no report of a major explosion has been heard from any government body in Isfahan.”

State run Press TV, also citing Ismaili, said the report of an explosion was “completely baseless and fabricated.”

An important Iranian nuclear facility involved in processing uranium is located near Isfahan city, although Iranian media reports of the incident did not refer to it.

International Atomic Energy Agency spokeswoman Gill Tudor said the U.N. watchdog was aware of the media reports but had no further information.

Iranian media provided contradictory information about the incident, which came less that three weeks after a massive explosion at a military base near Tehran that killed more than a dozen members of the Revolutionary Guard including the head of its missile forces.

The Fars news agency reported a large blast in the province but later removed the report from its website. Fars was not immediately available to comment on the withdrawn report.

The Mehr news agency cited other Iranian news media, which it did not identify, as reporting that a blast had taken place at a petrol station at a town near Isfahan city.

Several residents of the city contacted by Reuters by telephone said they heard nothing.

On November 12, Iran said a massive explosion at a military base 45 km west of Tehran killed 17 Revolutionary Guards, including the head of the elite force’s missile program. Iran said that explosion, which could be heard as far away as the capital, was caused by an accident while weapons were being moved.

Monday’s report of the apparent blast near Isfahan was the lead story on evening TV news broadcasts in Israel, although these did not include comment from Israeli officials or provide details beyond those given by Iranian agencies. An Israeli military spokeswoman reached by telephone declined to comment.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization operates several nuclear facilities east of Isfahan, according to the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a leading Washington-based think tank.

They include the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF), which began operating in 2006 and is able to produce uranium hexafluoride gas, the feed material that Iran uses to make refined uranium at its Natanz nuclear enrichment site.

“These things are well protected, some of them underground. Basically they have stocked all the raw material for quite some time. I think most of the material is stored in Isfahan,” said Olli Heinonen, former head of IAEA safeguards inspections worldwide and now a senior fellow at Harvard University.

Israel and the West are concerned about Iranian processing of uranium, because they believe that it could be used to make a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Writing by Peter Graff and Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Jon Boyle

Explosion at Hezbollah site under investigation


The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon said it will investigate the cause of an explosion at a Hezbollah arms depot in southern Lebanon.

The explosion occurred overnight Tuesday in an area of southern Lebanon where Hezbollah is prohibited from having weapons under the terms of an agreement that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

UNIFIL controls the area under the terms of U.N. Resolution 1701.

Lebanese security forces were prevented from entering the site of the explosion, the Daily Star reported.