Additional Druze arrested in ambulance attack


Three more Druze Israelis have been arrested in two attacks on ambulances carrying wounded Syrians to Israeli hospitals, including one that left a Syrian dead.

The arrests early on Thursday come a day after the arrests of five people from the village of Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights, where a mob of Druze-Israeli protesters on Monday night dragged two wounded Syrian fighters from the ambulance, beating one to death and seriously injuring the second,  and the arrests of four others believed to have been involved in an attack earlier Monday on an ambulance driving by the Druze village of Hurfish, where residents blocked the path of the ambulance and threw stones at it.

Two Israeli soldiers also were injured in the incidents.

A gag order has been imposed by police on the investigation into the incidents.

The Druze attackers believed the injured men were members of Syrian rebel groups, which have been targeting Druze-Syrians living near the border with Israel as part of the country’s four-year civil war.

Israel treats wounded from the civil war in the field and at local hospitals regardless of what side they are fighting for. More than 1,600 wounded Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals during the civil war, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Wednesday night with Druze community leaders, where he expressed appreciation for Druze contributions to the state and called for an end to violence against Israeli soldiers.

“Your sons, all of our sons, serve and fight in the IDF and defend our state. We all uphold the law and we are all loyal citizens. And if there is someone who deviates from these rules and takes the law into his hands, it is our duty, of course, to condemn this and see to it that these offenders do not become the norm. This is something that we must prevent – the recurrence of such events,” Netanyahu said.

“I think that it is also especially important to prevent attacks on IDF soldiers or hindering them as they carry out their missions. We have been successful in keeping Israel out of the anarchy that is happening around us. We did so because we always knew measure things and act prudently. This is, and will remain, our policy,” he said.

Druze leaders have condemned the attack.

Sheik Muafaq Tarif, spiritual leader of Druze in Israel, said in response: “Our faith, traditions and values are against attacking an ambulance or the injured. This is not our way. We did not educate for this. We strongly condemn what happened and of course we hope that you will continue to wisely and prudently lead on this issue. We are at your service.”

Israel convicts six Arab citizens in Jewish gunman’s killing


An Israeli court convicted six Arab citizens on Monday in connection with the mob killing in 2005 of a Jewish gunman after he went on a lethal shooting rampage on a bus in their town.

While none of the men was found guilty of directly causing the death of Eden Nathan-Zaada, a 19-year-old army deserter and far-right West Bank settler, some members of Israel's Arab minority deplored the verdict as a sign of discrimination.

Wearing a military uniform and Jewish skullcap, Nathan-Zaada opened fire aboard a bus in the northern town of Shfaram, killing four Arabs. Twenty-two people, all but seven of them Arabs, were wounded.

Enraged residents of the largely Arab populated town killed Nathan-Zaada at the scene, as police tried to intervene. Security officials said later the gunman had apparently hoped to trigger sectarian violence to try and derail Israel's Gaza Strip withdrawal, which went ahead weeks later.

Haifa District Court convicted four Shfaram men of attempted manslaughter, two others of serious aggravated assault and a seventh of assault and obstruction of a police officer.

Defense lawyer Siry Khourieh said “the indictments in my opinion should have never been presented,” having argued in court the men had acted in self-Defense, and that Israeli Jews were seldom prosecuted for killing assailants at the scene of an incident.

The court found for the prosecution, that the soldier had already been subdued, disarmed and handcuffed by police after his shooting spree, when a mob set upon him, stomping on and stoning him to death.

Kamal Shehadin, deputy mayor of Shfaram, among a few dozen protesters outside the court, said his constituents “feel discriminated against.”

“Four people were murdered in cold blood and the court comes to judge these men, who if they hadn't defended themselves, more blood could have been spilled,” Shehadin said.

The six defendants convicted of the worst offences face a maximum penalties of 14 years' imprisonment. Their attorney, Khourieh, said he expected far lighter sentences at a hearing scheduled for November.

“We have no end of mitigating circumstances here,” Khourieh told Reuters.

Israeli Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel's mostly Jewish population. Many are descended from Palestinians who fled or were driven away in a war over Israel's founding in 1948.

Writing by Dan Williams and Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

Jaffa Mosque bombing plan was to be blamed on right wing Israelis


An Arab-Israeli crime mob planned to bomb a mosque in Jaffa and pass it off as an attack by right-wing settlers, police discovered.

At least eight people have been under arrest for the last month in the case, from which a gag order was lifted Tuesday, according to reports.

The plan to bomb the Hassan Bek Mosque in Jaffa and the car of its sheikh was thwarted just hours before it was set to occur, when a police raid on a home in Jaffa last month uncovered the powerful bomb that was set to be planted in the building, Ynet reported.

Another plan included targeting a new Scientology center in Jaffa.

The would-be bombers had planned to spray paint the words “price tag” in the neighborhood to make the attack look like the work of rightists. “Price tag” refers to the strategy extremist settlers have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians in retribution for settlement freezes or their attacks on Jews. The incident was to have occurred shortly after five members of the Fogel family were killed in their home on a Friday night.

Indictments against the suspects, including several members of one Jaffa family, are expected to be made in Tel Aviv District Court later this week.

Spectator – ‘Soprano’ Sings on Jewish Couch


A month into the new and perhaps final season of “The Sopranos,” it’s high time to consider our favorite TV mobster’s predilection for Jews.

Of course, “The Sopranos” features its share of corrupt Jews as well as several marginally anti-Semitic wiseguys. Yet Tony Soprano has evinced a decidedly philosemitic streak.

The tradition — in life and in fiction — of Jewish ties to the Mafia is a rich, albeit rocky, one. Tony’s cinematic predecessor, the original Godfather, Vito Corleone, famously respected and did business with Hyman Roth, but never trusted him. Tony, on the other hand, not only trusts but loves Herman “Hesh” Rabkin, a mob-connected retired record producer who was close to Tony’s late father. Judging from his unwillingness to take Hesh’s money, Tony has more respect for his father’s old friend than he does for the Italian-blooded members of the family.

And the feeling extends beyond Hesh to other characters and situations. But the most important Jewish element on the show is not a character but a process: psychoanalysis.

As Tony’s megalomaniacal mother put it: “Everybody knows that it’s a racket for the Jews.”

The twist is that while Tony decides to engage in a quintessentially Jewish form of soul-searching, he settles on an Italian woman, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, a paisan as Tony says, to be his guide.

But, in the end, this Italian woman blocks his Jewish road to redemption. She means well, and makes some morally courageous stands, but Melfi’s judgment is ultimately clouded by the exhilaration of treating a charismatic Mafioso, hampering her ability to help trigger a meaningful transformation in Tony.

This dynamic contrasts sharply with the one between Tony’s wife, Carmela, and a psychiatrist recommended by Melfi, a stern white-bearded fellow named Krakower (first name: Sigmund).

“You must trust your initial impulse and consider leaving him,” Krakower tells Carmela during their first and last visit. “You’ll never be able to feel good about yourself. You’ll never be able to quell the feelings of guilt and shame that you talked about, so long as you’re his accomplice…. Take the children — what’s left of them — and go.”

Carmela resists the advice.

“You’re not listening,” Krakower says sternly. “I’m not charging you because I won’t take blood money. You can’t either. One thing you can never say: You haven’t been told.”

Krakower’s harsh advice underscores Dr. Melfi’s failures. The best she can do is help Tony become a more effective mob boss, not a better human being.

“The Sopranos” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.

Ami Eden is executive editor of The Forward. For a longer Soprano riff, visit www.forward.com/hbo.

Gambling Goodman


Oscar Goodman sure likes his Beefeater.

So much so that this Las Vegas mayor had proposed to become a spokesman for the gin company for $100,000. The money, Goodman promised, would go to the city coffers.

On a November Friday afternoon, just a day after news of the Beefeater negotiations leaked out (actually, Goodman himself announced it at his weekly press conference), the mayor’s phone is ringing off the hook. "When I said you weren’t available, a reporter told me, ‘What if I bring a bottle of Beefeater?’" Goodman’s aide tells him. "I said, ‘Well, why didn’t you say that earlier?’ You might have actually done it!" They both laugh, but the aide isn’t joking, and neither is the mayor: Goodman takes his Beefeater seriously, especially if representing the company would help bankroll his dream of making downtown thrive.

Goodman, who before he took the non-partisan position of mayor in 1999, was best known as the defense lawyer for the mob including clients like Meyer Lansky and Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro. He states with pride that he played himself in the movie "Casino." "Life is very short. You have to have a good time every second," the mayor says.

In the serious post-Sept. 11 world where Las Vegas tourism was hit by the fear of travel and the city suffered minor terrorist threats, the mayor hasn’t changed his plans. "I’m not going to allow the enemy to affect our way of doing things," he says. "Everyone is supposed to be having a good time in Vegas. That’s what we’re here for."

And that’s what his constituents most love — and his critics most hate: Goodman’s ability to have a good time, his flair for the theatrical and his talent for controversy. This year, readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal voted Hizzoner both their Favorite Local Politician and Most Colorful Character. Lookswise, he’s nothing outstanding; in his suit he could be any other 62-year-old successful Jewish lawyer you see at the Conservative synagogue. But when he opens his mouth — which he does more often then not — his features take on a life of their own, giving the word "colorful" more color.

"Whoa, look at this jerk, right over, what an idiot. He fell right on his head, he’s probably dead." From the car the mayor is laughing at a guy who ran across the highway.

We are on our way to a furniture store opening — yes, a furniture store opening — because … well, it’s a long story. But it’s been a long day for Goodman ("brutal," he says), starting with a prayer breakfast, a speaking engagement to nurses, then a four-hour meeting working on an arena proposal for downtown. "It’s just one thing after another, but that’s what mayors do," he says, as the phone rings and someone on the other end threatens a lawsuit.

"Man, he’s a paranoid jerk, who if he wants to do business with the city sure started off on the wrong foot. He’s got a long, hard way to go with me," Goodman tells the caller. After the call is finished he says, "The only thing that people don’t realize is that when they threaten me with a lawsuit, I relish it. I mean, that’s what I did for 35 years as a lawyer. So if they say lawsuit, I say, take your best shot."

And this is all before five o’clock, the time for a drink or a bet at the tables.

If some mayors have the personality of their cities — like gruff, tough Rudolph Giuliani is New York — then Las Vegas has finally met its match.

"City residents have been longing for an elected leader with this kind of moxie," a Las Vegas Sun columnist wrote recently. "Finally we have a mayor who can promote Las Vegas the way it should be promoted — as Sin City…. Yes, you’ve got to love the mayor of Las Vegas. God bless him."

The columnist was blessing the mayor’s bid, in March, to be the spokesman for Tanqueray instead of his beloved Beefeater. Why the defection? Beefeater would only cough up $25,000, and Goodman wanted his original asking price of $100,000, so he cut off negotiations with Beefeater. A third unnamed company has also entered negotiations this month, and they hope to close the deal with someone soon.

This is not the only one of Goodman’s highfalutin ideas which might end in success: on Monday, they signed a deed to the post office in order to turn it into a Mob museum. Other ideas include bringing to Vegas Hollywood studios, a major league team (he got a minor league hockey team instead) and a top-notch medical center. Last week, downtown saw the opening of a $100 million dollar entertainment complex.

Goodman doesn’t lack for causes. He takes on the casino establishment for not supporting the entire city (note: his downtown projects) and politicians in Washington for proposing the nearby Yucca mountain as a nuclear-waste dump. The homeless accuse him of being heartless for suggesting that they be rounded up and bused to an abandoned prison or pushed farther toward the Pacific Ocean, and the 19 or so synagogues in the area vie for his time, but never ask him for something he won’t deliver. "They don’t mess with the mayor in Las Vegas. Nobody asks me anything that would make me angry. They want me to be a happy mayor."

When Oscar Goodman came to Las Vegas 37 years ago, fresh from law school in Philadelphia, there was only one synagogue (his Conservative one) and more churches per capita than any city in the world. Since then, the Jewish community has flourished to more than 75,000.

Goodman, who raised four children here with his wife of 37 years, says that his Jewish values have made him the person he is today. "I was raised by a very ethical, moral mother and father. They were parents who were supposed to be honored. Kabed et aviycha v’et imecha," he says, quoting the Hebrew commandment of honoring your parents. "They installed certain values. I’m not sure that had I not been Jewish that I would have had that kind of upbringing."

Drinking? Gambling? Jewish values?

"I think some of the greatest Jews in history have gambled and drunk. Shoot, that’s part of Judaism, as far as I was concerned," Goodman says in his own defense.

"I used to remember going to my grandfather’s house, and the gambling was a little different. During the holidays we used to play — it was like bowling but with hazelnuts, and you would win money … and the afikomen? That’s gambling.

"Drinking, the first thing you did when you walked into my grandfather’s home, he said ‘Do you want some schnapps?’" he recalls.

"So I’m following a long line of degenerate Jews in being the mayor of Las Vegas."

The Circuit


A Hungry Mob

It was a moment that the members of Women’s Department of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Business and Professional Division will never forget: a kitchen full of young women learning about and noshing on the Sicilian culinary stylings of chef Henry Hill.

Yes, that Henry Hill — the former Mafioso who entered the FBI’s witness protection program and helped the Feds root out organized crime.

By night’s end, there was red liquid splattered all over the kitchen. Thankfully, it was just leftover marinara sauce on empty plates from quickly devoured homemade Italian delicacies: chicken marsala with mushrooms, grilled eggplant rollatine, piping hot penne pasta — all kosher.

It was slightly surreal to find a former “wiseguy” giving cooking tips to 50 upstanding young Jewish women, mostly in their 30s. But there’s more to the story. Hill — best known for his Howard Stern appearances and being portrayed by Ray Liotta in Martin Scorcese’s “Goodfellas” — has been struggling to put his underworld past behind him. For 2 1/2 years, Hill, 58, has been a Beit T’Shuvah rehab resident, trying to kick his alcoholism. Hill told the room that he was proudly sober, despite a setback 10 months ago in the progress of his recovery.

The evening’s hostess, Janis Black Goldman, generously opened up her Beverly Hills home for this unique experience.

“You can be here for a good cause and meet old and new friends in a comfortable environment,” said Goldman, the daughter of philanthropists Stanley and Joyce Black. Goldman had suggested Hill to the Women’s Department after she had met the ex-mobster at a Beit T’Shuvah Shabbat event, where she enjoyed a firsthand encounter with his formidable cooking prowess.

“He’s someone in recovery that made a success in his life,” said Goldman’s sister, Jill Zalben. “People today want to see that. He’s teaching us that we can have a life and you can move on.”

Hill told The Circuit of cooking’s therapeutic nature. “It relaxes me where a psychiatrist doesn’t excite me.” His cookbook will be released by Penguin Books in October.

Hill and The Circuit notwithstanding, there was only one other XY-chromosomed guest present — Black family friend Jono Kohan.

Kohan himself comes from a Jewishly active family. His mother, the lively Rhea Kohan, emcees Jewish galas with her dazzling wit. His brother, David Kohan, co-created NBC’s hit sitcom, “Will & Grace.”

“There’s a lot of female energy in the room tonight. I find it very positive to be around,” said Kohan, obviously enjoying this most fortuitous male-to-female ratio.

Also contributing to that female energy: Michele Sackheim, division chair; Harriet Rossetto, Beit T’Shuvah director; Laurie Konhiem, The Federation’s Women’s Campaign chair; Sharon Janks, vice chair liaison; outreach committee members Cynthia Baseman, Andrea Corsun, Sara Essner, Marilyn Sonners, Galia Nitzan and Barbara Zolla; Bobbi Asimow, Women’s Campaign director, and Jody Moss, Women’s Campaign professional staff.

“I couldn’t have done this event without Henry,” said Greer Sanders, division outreach chair. “He planned the whole thing from soup to nuts.”From salad to spumoni is more like it. But you get the picture.

For information on Women’s Business and Professional Division, which will hold its annual banquet at the Four Seasons on May 8, call (323) 761-8275.

Helping Hands

More than 500 people honored Abraham Spiegel and Fred Kort at the American Society for Yad Vashem’s first West Coast Tribute Dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills. For more than 30 years, Spiegel has been instrumental in helping expand Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the world’s leading Holocaust artifact repository and research center. Holocaust survivor Kort has also contributed greatly to Yad Vashem’s cause. The evening, where “The Young and the Restless” star Eric Braeden was master of ceremonies, featured a message from Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Omert and raised nearly $500,000 for Yad Vashem.

A Dozen Good Eggs

Twelve University of Judaism second-year students took part of the Sid B. Levine Service Learning Program over winter break, working with the elderly, the homeless, the disabled and adults with autism.

A Taste of the Best

Journal food writers Judy Zeidler and Judy Bart Kancigor signed their cookbooks at the delectable Food Fare, sponsored by Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. Fifty of Los Angeles’ best chefs, restaurants, caterers and wineries gave out tasty samplings of their work, while everything from cookbooks, personal trainers and symphony tickets were bid on during a silent auction. Organizers said that the annual fundraiser, which took place in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, raised more than the $400,000 the event brought in last year.

Generation to Generation

Second-generation Holocaust survivor Ricci Zuckerman visited the students of Hebrew Academy High School in Huntington Beach. The Second Generation group founder responded to an invitation by the school’s Jewish history teacher Helen Kern.

Un ‘Common’ Characters


Two garbage bags full of dead birds separate four Brooklyn buddies from their dreams in actor-playwright Matthew Klein’s debut production, "The Common Man."

Japs Peretti (Klein), estranged son of a Mafia don, looks to rival mafioso Joey the Saint for the half-million dollars he needs to open a mob-themed restaurant and nightclub. Japs is a talker, given to self-deluding motivational speeches ("tomorrow is the beginning of the new forever."). With his pathological-liar brother Stanley (Kevin Brief), neurotic failed screenwriter Leonard Rosenblatter (Carl J. Johnson) and Sinatra-wannabe Peter (Greg Littman), Japs is sent to earn the money that will finally send each on the fast-track, by retrieving a safe-deposit key hidden in one of those dead birds.

The characters are bumbling failures. The Mob story, while entertaining on its own, really serves to set up the darkly seriocomic second act. With failure yet again knocking on their door, these "common" men must answer to the sympathetic hit man (a sly and understated Art LaFleur) sent to their living room. Very little of the great suspense in "The Common Man" comes from the plot. The many twists and turns in the play are the logical outcome of these four dreamers, forced at gunpoint to confront their failure and come up with a reason for living.

Klein, 30, a native of Flatbush, Brooklyn, graduated from Yeshiva University before turning to acting full time. After his early work at Manhattan’s Neighborhood Playhouse, Klein came out to California three years ago and has landed roles on stage and in television shows including "Chicago Hope." With an enthusiasm akin to Japs’, Klein makes light of the mafia angle and implied violence in his play. "I always start writing from pain — that’s where the comedy comes from," he says. "The violence in the play is really secondary to the characters." It’s those characters — sad, funny, and too recognizable for comfort — who will stay with the audience long after the "common" mafia story fades to black.

"The Common Man" at The MET Theater, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. $20. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Jan. 24-March 2. For reservations or more information, call (323) 957-1152.