U.S. citizen indicted in Israel on weapons charges

A U.S. citizen has been indicted in Israel on weapons charges and told investigators he had been weighing the possibility of attacking Muslim holy sites, the Israeli domestic security service Shin Bet said on Tuesday.

The man's lawyer told reporters that the Shin Bet was exaggerating the security implications of the case, which coincides with high Arab-Jewish tensions in Jerusalem over access to a holy site where the al-Aqsa mosque now stands and biblical Jewish temples once stood.

The Shin Bet and the Justice Ministry identified the suspect as Adam Everett Livvix, 30, of Texas, and said he was wanted in the United States on drug charges.

Livvix, who was arrested on Nov. 19, was charged on Monday with conspiring with his roommate, an Israeli soldier, to steal 3 lb of explosives from the military.

The Israeli authorities said an undercover police agent discovered the alleged plot and that ammunition and weapons material stolen from the army were found in Livvix's possession.

A gag order on details of the case, being heard in a court in the central Israeli city of Netanya, was lifted on Tuesday.

“Under questioning, Livvix admitted … he had weighed various ideas about committing terrorist attacks at different venues and even gave preliminary thought to the possibility of attacking venues (of) Islamic holy places in Israel,” the Shin Bet said, without identifying them.

The Justice Ministry said the court has ordered Livvix to undergo a psychiatric examination prior to entering a plea.

Israeli authorities said Livvix is a Christian and that he arrived in the region in 2013, living first in the Palestinian cities of Hebron and Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank and then residing illegally in Israel.

Livvix's lawyer could not be reached for further comment.

Miss World encourages rape survivors to speak out

In 1998, when Linor Abargil, the reigning Miss Israel, was crowned Miss World in the oldest of all international beauty pageants, she shed tears — perhaps of joy, maybe of anger, possibly a mixture of both.

Seven weeks before her coronation, the 18-year-old beauty had been brutally raped at knifepoint by Shlomo Nur, a trusted travel agent, while a passenger in his car.

Most rapes end in shamed silence or the indifference of authorities, but Abargil, born in Netanya into a Moroccan Jewish family, was made in a different mold.

With strong backing from her parents as well as a growing number of supporters, she set herself two goals: to see that her attacker would be brought to justice and that she would become a global advocate in the fight against sexual violence.

Five years ago, Abargil met filmmaker Cecilia Peck, daughter of actor Gregory Peck. Over the following years, the two women traveled together in Africa, Europe, Israel and the United States, filming meetings with rape victims — or, rather, “survivors,” as Peck calls them.

After another year for editing, the result of their work is the award-winning documentary “Brave Miss World,” which opens in Los Angeles on Nov. 15.

According to Peck’s research, cited in the film, the sheer number of victims of sexual violence worldwide is staggering, although survey results vary widely.

“In the United States, one in five college women are raped, but only 12 percent of them ever report the assault,” Peck said.

One common reason for maintaining silence is given in the film by a Chinese-American girl, who says that if the rape became public, “Mom would be so disappointed.”

The victims are not only women — Peck cites statistics that one of every six men has been sexually abused during his lifetime.

The film does not show graphic footage of rapes, but its on-camera testimony by survivors is horrifying enough.

One girl describes how between ages 6 and 11, she was repeatedly raped by her father.

There’s also a blind woman, whose criminal complaint was dismissed because she could not describe the features of her assailant.

In South Africa, dubbed “the rape capital of the world,” a woman tells how a rapist first attacked her and then, later, her daughter.

Women students from Princeton and UC Santa Barbara charge that university officials ignored complaints against the attackers.

Actresses Joan Collins and Fran Drescher, both rape victims, testify to the profound traumas of the attacks, despite later success and “normality.”

Among the long-term aftereffects described by the victims are an inability to enjoy normal sexual relationships, persistent tiredness as well as sleeplessness, anorexia or extreme weight gain and alcoholism.

The trauma is often made even more unbearable by the frequent indifference or skepticism of police, courts and clergymen, and, worst, by blame heaped on the victim by parents and relatives, Peck said.

As an example of a positive response, Peck cited the reaction of Abargil’s mother, Aliza. When she received her daughter’s call about the rape, the mother responded immediately with, “It’s not your fault. Don’t take a shower, go to a hospital and file a report with the police. We’ll support you.”

 Abargil has now enlisted thousands of women in her campaign against sexual violence and is expected to reach many more through screenings of “Brave Miss World.”

Her second goal — to bring her attacker to trial — has taken a long time, and it is not yet over. The rape occurred near Milan, Italy, and Italian authorities dismissed her complaint. Eventually, Nur was tricked into returning to Israel, where he was tried, found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

However, after serving a brief part of his sentence, every six months Nur comes up for a parole hearing, during which the whole case is rehashed once again.

Despite all this, Abargil has created for herself a full, new life. After a short-lived marriage to a Lithuanian basketball player, a member of an Israeli team, Abargil is now married to an old boyfriend, with whom she has twins — one boy and one girl — and in late October of this year she gave birth to a second baby girl. That happy event kept her, among other things, from giving an interview for this article.

Professionally, Abargil went to law school and is now working as a lawyer for the Tel Aviv district attorney’s office.

Personally and spiritually, the onetime model and beauty queen has turned to a strict Orthodox lifestyle, including long, modest dresses and strict kosher observance.

Peck fervently hopes that many men will view the film and that their girlfriends or wives will bring them along.

“Women already know this story, it’s the men who are shocked,” Peck said. “Men must realize that rape changes the victim’s life forever, and fathers must teach their sons to respect women.”

The film’s executive producers are Lati Grobman, Irving Bauman, Christa Campbell, Regina Kulick Scully, Orna Raiz, Howard Rosenman and Geralyn Dreyfous. Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer scored the movie with Ben Harper and Martin Tillman.

“Brave Miss World” opens Nov. 15 at Laemmle’s Town Center in Encino and Nov. 16 at the Monica in Santa Monica. Co-producers Cecilia Peck (director), Inbal Lessner (editor) and Motty Reif will participate in Q-and-A sessions following selected screenings. For details, visit www.bravemissworld.com.

Iron Dome battery deployed to central Israel

An Iron Dome anti-missile system battery was deployed to central Israel.

The battery was moved to the Sharon region north of Tel Aviv for the first time, according to the Israel Defense Forces. The region, which includes Netanya and Hadera, is believed to be within range of rockets fired by Hezbollah from Lebanon.

According to the IDF, the battery is being deployed as part of the regular operational process. Israel now has six operational Iron Dome batteries.

An Iron Dome battery deployed near Eilat in southern Israel intercepted rockets fired from Sinai at the tourist enclave last week.

IKEA may be opening in Ramallah

IKEA is considering opening a branch in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Two IKEA executives visited Ramallah last month and met with the Palestinian Authority economics minister, Jawad al-Naji, according to the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot.

Israel has IKEA megastores in Netanya and Rishon Lezion. A third IKEA megastore is scheduled to open next year in Kiryat Ata.

IKEA plans to have the Ramallah employees train at the Netanya store, which has an employee training center, according to the newspaper.

Matthew Bronfman, the franchisee for IKEA in Israel, was updated by company executives on the talks with the Palestinian Authority.

“If asked, we’ll be happy to help establish the store,” Bronfman told Yediot.

Hut haven: World’s sukkahs shown in Netanya

More than 20 countries are displaying their traditional sukkahs at a festival in Israel celebrating Jewish Diaspora communities.

The three-day festival, which opened Sunday, salutes Jewish communities around the world and their unique holiday traditions. It is being hosted by Israel’s Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs along with the Diaspora Museum and the municipality of Netanya.

Each country’s booth includes activities and crafts, as well as art and displays explaining the customs and traditions of the country.

Among the countries represented are England, Italy, Norway, Finland, Ukraine and Peru.

“It is very important for Israeli Jews to appreciate the diversity which exists within the communities beyond Israel’s shores,” said Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s minister of Public and Diaspora Affairs. “Events like these help strengthen the bond with the Diaspora and enhance mutual Jewish identity and pride between our community and fellow Jews across the globe.”

Suspected gas explosion injures 11 in Netanya restaurant

Eleven people were injured Friday after an explosion rocked a Netanya restaurant and caused part of the building to collapse.

The two-story restaurant is located on Pinkas street in Netanya’s old industrial area.

Eleven foreign workers from China who were sleeping in the top floor sustained light injuries and suffered from smoke inhalation. Seven of them were taken to Laniado Hospital and four to Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center.

A fire that raged after the explosion hampered search and rescue efforts, but the flames were eventually put out.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Two arrested in Netanya gas explosion

Two men were arrested following a gas explosion in the Israeli city of Netanya that left four people dead.

One of the men was arrested Friday on suspicion of having damaged and stolen gas lines in the four-story residential building. Police say the man, who had been detained near the building on Thursday before the explosion but was then released, was found with metal pipes in his possession. Police are trying to determine whether the pipes were stolen from the building.

The other man under arrest is a gas company technician who reportedly inspected the building’s gas lines and who police suspect of negligence.

In addition to the four fatalities, more than 90 people were injured in the blast. It caused heavy damage to buildings around the city’s seaside Atzmaut Square.

A judge extended the custody of the two suspects for five days.

Netanya explosion kills one, cause uncertain

An explosion near a coffee shop in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya killed at least one person and injured several others.

The cause of the explosion, which occurred shortly after midnight early Friday morning, remains uncertain. Police are investigating.

The explosion caused part of a building to collapse, reportedly leaving some people trapped.

The Israeli website Ynet reports that the coffee shop where the explosion occurred was host to illegal activities.

Netanya has been the site of Palestinian terrorist attacks in the past, but it has also been an epicenter for violence between rival Israeli organized crime families, which have sometimes used bombings to settle scores.

An unexpected family in Netanya

During the summer before my senior year in high school, I wanted to get involved in a meaningful program that would change my life and the lives of others. After researching my options, I decided to volunteer at Bet Elazraki, an extraordinary foster home for children in Netanya, Israel that needed additional counselors during the summer.

Upon my arrival I met Yehuda Kohen, the home’s director. I could immediately see the special qualities that motivated Kohen to dedicate the past 20 years of his life to giving children who come from broken homes the opportunity to overcome their disadvantages and live successful lives.

Despite the rumors and warnings, I strongly believed I could not only handle but also enjoy the opportunity to contribute to the lives of younger girls. However, when I received my first assignment as a counselor for the 10- to 12-year- olds, I felt less like a counselor and more like an outsider drowning in a sea of more than 200 children, all in desperate need of attention.

I admit, at first I did not exactly know how I would win their trust, especially since they seemed more inclined to seek out their Hebrew-speaking, year-round counselors than their American summer counselors. At the same time, I desperately wanted them to feel comfortable and safe with me and accept me into their “family.” I realized it would take time, just as it does for any relationship.

For the first time in my life, I embraced the responsibility for people other than myself. I catered to my girls’ needs from the time they woke up until they went to sleep. I focused on finding a way to reach them and prove my trustworthiness. When I introduced myself, my mind focused on one question: “How am I going to bond with these adorable girls?” They came from broken homes and had experienced horrors I could not even begin to fathom. To complicate matters further, they only spoke Hebrew, and my academics had not prepared me for the stress of recalling a second language while also relating in the ways these girls needed.

As days passed, I slowly found ways to break down some of the barriers. I listened (which improved my Hebrew) and studied their individual situations in order to determine the best way to show them, by listening and then offering feedback, that I could empathize with them. I ensured that they knew they could depend on me at all times. We connected as they told me stories about their past and why they live at Bet Elazraki rather than with their own families.

One day, as I waited for the bus to take me to Jerusalem on a Friday morning, I watched all the children board buses to visit family members for the weekend. I asked a head counselor named Shira what happens to the children who can’t go to their parents’ home. Shira told me about a 9-year-old girl named Sara who did not want to go home. She told Shira that when she went home two weeks ago to visit her family, her mother told her that she didn’t want to see her again and didn’t want to take care of her.

It was so difficult for me to imagine that this sweet loveable child was unwanted. How could Sara’s parents be so cruel?

From that moment on, I decided to give Sara as much love and comfort as I could while I was there. I knew I could never replace her mother, but I wanted her to realize that she was special, she was wanted and she was loved. During the time I was there, we went on a number of different outings. I made sure that I paid special attention to her in an effort to make feel wanted and important.

When I left Bet Elazraki, I left behind Sara and some very special girls, along with a significant piece of myself. On the last day, Yehuda Kohen arranged a goodbye party for all the American counselors; there was not a dry eye in the room. The party crystallized my entire summer experience. Throughout the summer, I considered how I learned so much from this experience, but I had no idea how I impacted these young lives. Watching the children cry, clinging to us and begging us not to leave, I realized the power of selfless giving, an experience I had not discovered before this volunteer opportunity.

On my plane ride home I pondered how, in such a short period of time, I evolved from being a total stranger to 200 children to becoming part of a family I didn’t even know existed. While my family back home differs in so many ways from the one I joined in Israel, I recognized that in the end, we’re all family because we depend on each other for emotional support.

Lauren Weintraub is a senior at YULA Girls School.

Speak Up!Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the November issue is Oct. 15; deadline for the December issue is Nov. 15. Send submissions to julief@jewishjournal.com.

Bomber Hits Israeli Shopping Mall

An Islamic Jihad terrorist blew himself up Monday outside the Sharon Mall in Netanya, which has seen several such attacks due to its proximity to the West Bank. At least five people were killed and more than 50 wounded. The bomber was identified as a 21-year-old man from the West Bank.

Israel responded by closing the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and launched a military crackdown in the West Bank on Tuesday. Israeli troops swept into the suicide bomber’s home village near Tulkarm, arresting his father and three brothers, witnesses said.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said the action against Islamic Jihad would be comprehensive and long-lasting.

Sensing that the situation could spiral out of control, P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the bombing and pledged to arrest those responsible.

Chaim Amram, 26, the security guard on duty, took the suspect aside as he approached the mall around 11:30 a.m. Amram pushed him against the wall, but it was too late — the bomber triggered his explosives, killing Amram and four others. Dozens more were wounded.

The victims had little in common except for the fatal timing of their visit to the Sharon Mall, the major shopping center in the seaside city of Netanya.

A few feet away from Amram, Iliya Rosen, 38, a psychologist and mother of three, was just leaving the mall after a shopping expedition for clothes for the job she was scheduled to begin next week. She, too, was killed instantly by the blast.

Rosen had walked speedily out of the mall, telling a friend that she didn’t feel comfortable being there.

Her friend, identified by her first name, Orit, in the Israeli media, said she teased her, saying, “I asked her ‘Where are you rushing to, are you scared of being in the next terror attack?'”

A moment later, Rosen was dead.

Dani Golani, 45, who had come from Nahariya to Netanya to explore whether he might open a clothing store in the mall, also was among those killed. Active in Nahariya local politics, he was remembered warmly by friends and family.

“It was hard to separate him from his smile. He loved to live, and loved his family,” said Tzion Lankari, a Nahariya council member and long-time friend of Golani.

The attack also took the life of Alexandra Gramitzky, 65, who immigrated to Israel in 1997 from Ukraine, where she had worked as an accounts manager. She lived in Netanya with her son and his family.

The youngest victim of the bombing was Keinan Tzoami, who celebrated his 20th birthday last month. Tzoami was remembered as a good-natured young man with lots of friends. He worked with his father at a family carpentry business.

His grandmother entered the house where he had lived with his parents and wailed, “Bring me my grandson. I just want my grandson.”

Sharon’s right-wing rivals in the Likud Party — which he left last month, founding a new, centrist party to compete in March 28 general elections — lost no time in condemning him.

“Thanks to Sharon, we risk seeing a terror base being created right next to the Dan region,” said legislator Uzi Landau, who withdrew from the Likud primary race Monday to endorse the front-runner, Benjamin Netanyahu. “Today’s terror attack is only a sign of things to come.”

On the left, Labor Party leader Amir Peretz was quick to call for an “all-out crackdown on terror” while also appealing to Israeli doves by vowing, if he’s elected prime minister, to withdraw from large areas of the West Bank.

Mofaz ordered a resumption of air strikes aimed at killing Palestinian terrorists involve in producing and launching rockets.


The Home Front

Standing with the crowd in Netanya where, hours before, a Palestinian suicide bomber had killed three Israelis and himself, local carpenter Ya’acov Ohayon was asked if he thought the public — the home front — was ready for more of the same, or worse.

“Are they ready?” he replied. “Everybody says they want to go to war to put an end to all this. Would a war be any worse than what we’ve got?” In any war, high morale at home — an ability to withstand constant fear and loss of life, and to maintain determination to fight — is considered absolutely vital. The morale of the Israeli home front is now being tested. Palestinian terror has jumped the Green Line and entered the Israeli heartland — killer bus drivers in Holon, exploding bus passengers in the Galilee, detonating pedestrians in Netanya.

Despite the army’s all-out effort to close off the country to incoming Palestinians, the sense is that terrorists are entering Israel one by one, nearly every day, and succeeding in their missions. Meanwhile in the West Bank and Gaza, the shooting at soldiers and settlers goes on. It’s not just Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as in earlier years; now it’s the Palestinian Authority itself, Israel’s “partner.”

All assessments are that the violence shows no sign of subsiding; if anything, it will get worse. Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon and his allies speak of finding new, no-nonsense ways of putting down the intifada, and while they haven’t been long on specifics, widespread speculation is that the next steps may be 1) to target the higher-ups in the intifada, including Arafat’s top lieutenants, and 2) to bring the fight onto the P.A.’s turf — into the cities, villages and refugee camps of Gaza and the West Bank.

This could have severe repercussions, the most greatly feared of all being that other Arab forces, such as Hezbollah on the northern border or Syria, as well as other Arab states, could join the fight against Israel. At the very least, an escalation of the fighting would mean more tension, fear and death for Israelis to live with.

Are they up for this? Or would they crack under the pressure and, in essence, sue for peace with the Arabs? Prof. Ehud Sprinzak, an expert on terror at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center, said Israeli society, like all bourgeois societies, is “soft.” While the Palestinians are enraged and even encouraged with the death of each new shaheed (martyr), Israelis “fall apart,” he noted.

“But this doesn’t mean the Israeli public is going to collapse,” Sprinzak stressed. In the short term, at least, Israelis will stand fast, he predicts, not least because the previous government of Ehud Barak went such a long distance for peace.

Barak said repeatedly that it was important for the morale of the public and the army for them to know that its government had done everything possible for peace. Thus, if they were forced to go to war, it was because of the other side’s intransigence — it was truly a “war of no choice.”

“If Barak achieved any successes in his term of office, that was it,” Sprinzak said.

Dr. Reuven Gal, former chief Israeli army psychologist and now director of the Carmel Institute for Social Studies, agreed that the political context of the current fighting made all the difference in the public’s morale.

While the Palestinians achieved their aim in the first intifada by getting Israel to negotiate with the PLO, and while Hezbollah achieved its aim by forcing Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, the current intifada can’t push Israelis to make any more concessions because they’ve already made about as many as they can, Gal said.

“If anything, the terror is producing a political backlash to the right,” he noted. He senses a healthy “resilience” in the public to the violence. Among soldiers, he sees an upsurge in morale because they’re not acting as policemen against stone-throwers, as in the first intifada, but rather like soldiers fighting gunmen. “The attitude now is, ‘We’re finished with all that pussy-footing — war is war.'”

The way it’s beginning to look, the Israeli home front is likely prepared for a lot more than Yasser Arafat and the fighters of the Al-Aqsa intifada might have imagined.