Nation & World Briefs

Israel Reports Bird Flu Cases

Israel confirmed its first contagion by a deadly strain of avian flu. The Agriculture Ministry officially announced Monday that a virus that killed turkeys and chickens at three Negev farms was H5N1, a virulent strain that has spread across Europe, Africa and parts of Asia over the past three years.

The virus can kill humans if contracted from poultry, and scientists fear it could mutate and become directly communicable between people. However, the ministry said the outbreak, which prompted mass culling of poultry, was under control.

Families of Palestinian ‘Martyrs’ Receive UAE Funds

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has given money to families of Palestinian “martyrs” killed or injured in the intifada. The money to the families of both civilians and militants was provided through the UAE’s Red Crescent Society, The New York Times reported.

In at least one case, the money went to the family of a member of Islamic Jihad who was killed in clashes with Israel. The documents were provided to The Times by Gary Osen, a U.S. lawyer who is working on legal cases for U.S. victims of Palestinian terrorism.

The UAE is a federation of states that includes Dubai, where a government-owned company recently said it would sell its port-security operations to a U.S. firm, following an outcry about allowing a UAE-owned company to oversee security at U.S. ports.

EU Donates $78 Million for Palestinian Relief

The European Union donated $78 million for Palestinian relief. The sum, given to the United Nations on Monday for disbursement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, was cast by the EU as an ad-hoc gesture that was not meant to undermine the 25-nation bloc’s calls for Hamas, which won a majority in January’s Palestinian Authority elections, to moderate its stance on Israel.

The EU has said its annual aid program of hundreds of millions of dollars for the Palestinians could be curbed or cut completely unless Hamas renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist and accepts past Israeli-Palestinian peace accords.

Lithuanian Trial of Accused Nazi Collaborator Begins

The L.A.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center called upon Lithuanian authorities to expedite the trial of Nazi collaborator Algimantas Dailide, which began Sunday in Vilnius.

The center’s Israel director, Efraim Zuroff, expressed hope that “the delay of justice and absence of punishment that characterized the cases of Dailide’s superiors” in the Lithuanian security police, Alexandras Lileikis and Kazys Gimzauskas, would not recur in this case.

Dailide moved to the United States in 1950 and lived here until he was ordered deported in 2002 for his service in the Saugumas, the Nazi-sponsored Lithuanian security police for the Vilna Ghetto. No one has been convicted of Nazi-era war crimes in Lithuania since the country became independent in 1991.

Pollard Loses Court Bid for Access to Classified Data

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Jonathan Pollard’s petition for access to classified information used to convict him. A former U.S. Navy analyst, Pollard is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison for spying for Israel.

On Monday, the high court rejected Pollard’s request for a hearing on a petition for his attorneys to receive access to the evidence to bolster Pollard’s argument for clemency. A hearing would not have affected Pollard’s conviction.

Rabbi Calls for Creation of World Religions Organization

One of Israel’s chief rabbis called for an international organization of religions. Yona Metzger, Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, called Sunday for a “United Nations of religious groups” as the second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace opened in Seville, Spain, the BBC reported. About 150 rabbis and imams are taking part in the conference.

Also speaking at the three-day meeting, Rabbi Israel Singer of the World Jewish Congress’ Policy Council rejected the idea that Jewish-Muslim tensions lie at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He added that “religious crusaders” like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “must be exposed for what they are: impostors.”

Meanwhile, a group of Jews, Muslims and Christians is making a solidarity trek across North Africa. The 10-member interfaith team, sponsored by the peacemaking group, Breaking the Ice, set off from Jerusalem on March 7 for a four-week journey scheduled to end in Tripoli, Libya. Among those taking part in the 3,400-mile trek is a retired Israeli fighter pilot; a former body double for Saddam Hussein’s late son, Udai; a Palestinian accounting student; a New York firefighter, and a representative from Iran.

Michigan University Group Urges Israel Divestment

More than 40 professors and staff members at the University of Michigan presented a letter supporting divestment from Israel. Submitted online and to university regents last Friday, the letter argued that the school’s financial involvements in Israel posed “serious moral or ethical questions.”

During South Africa’s apartheid, university regents voted to divest stock of companies doing business with the nation, and some Jewish observers worry that they will do the same now with Israel-related stocks.

Backers of divestment say the move will pressure Israel not to violate Palestinian human rights, but opponents say it ignores the reality that Israel is responding to Palestinian terrorist attacks.

3 Beat Jew in Paris; Police Arrest Suspects in Attack

A Jewish man was attacked in his car in a Paris suburb. Sunday’s attack was carried out by three men of African and North African origin, according to the Office of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism.

The three forced the man to stop his car and forcibly removed him from the vehicle, allegedly calling him a Jew in Arabic. The man was thrown to the ground and beaten. His attackers fled when another car passed by.

The victim managed to get his attackers’ license plate number and go to the police station to press charges. The three men were then located and arrested.

Israeli Boxer Wins Prize

An Israeli boxer won a world heavyweight prize. Russian-born Roman Greenberg, 23, defeated Alex Vassilev in six rounds last Saturday at the IBO Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship in Monte Carlo. Now based in London, Greenberg has enjoyed 22 straight wins in his mostly amateur career.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Image and Reality in L.A.

Critics say Los Angeles is all image. The city, they claim, presents an illusion to the world much like the movies Hollywood projects on its big screens. The myth goes that it’s a city of facades, with the favored tools are the editor’s airbrush or the plastic surgeon’s scalpel. There are no friendships here, only contacts and connections, they say.

After five years on “extended vacation” in Southern California, I have found these statements far more superficial than the city they decry. As a permanent resident of the tormented Middle East, my time here has left me in awe of the wide variety of religions, colors, languages and life philosophies that intermingle in Los Angeles. To be a minority is to be in the majority in Los Angeles, and despite its fragmented sprawl, coexistence is real, with each community adding to the flavor of the city.

That is not to say, however, there aren’t absurd aspects about life in Los Angeles. There is, for example, the infatuation with cars and the impossibly tangled web of freeways. When we bump into people, it is likely in the most literal sense — a fender bender on the 405.

It is little wonder that I learned one of Los Angeles’ more important lessons with the help of my car. Traveling alone on the 10 Freeway opened my eyes to the multitude of faces, languages, cuisines and cultures that run into each other here. Starting in Venice, stereotypical images of Los Angeles abound — from beach bums soaking in the sun to fitness fanatics pumping iron at Muscle Beach. Moving east, the Jewish neighborhood of the Pico corridor became a second home for me. On my way downtown, I stopped in Koreatown, historic Adams and eventually East Los Angeles, making friends in each community: each group diverse, each group proud, each group American.

I traveled this freeway and others often during my tenure here, visiting a variety of communities along the way. What I have learned here has given me a “Thomas Guide” of sorts to maneuver and navigate through our differences to arrive ultimately at our similarities.

Dorothy Parker once described Los Angeles as “72 suburbs in search of a city,” but I sometimes wonder how badly they really want to find it. The communities I passed on my drive down the 10 didn’t seem to be looking for it; they already appeared to be perfectly at home and at peace as Angelenos. On July 4, for instance, people from all over this city simply don’t appear interested to gather en masse at some civic center, but prefer neighborhood parades, local fireworks displays and backyard barbeques.

Despite this geographic disconnection, the people of Los Angeles are nonetheless remarkably united. They share the same debates about Kobe vs. Shaq, the same frustrations with the traffic, the same concerns about schools and public safety, the same appreciation for the amazing beauty and vibrant cultural life that Los Angeles has to offer. Most importantly, the diverse population of this city shares a truly laudable spirit of respect and tolerance for “the other.” There have been, of course, many tough times. However, friendships and relationships that transcend ethnicity and religion are the norm here. By and large, people relate to each other as individuals — not as groups, not as categories, not as stereotypes. As coming from the Middle East, where ethnic divisions have paralyzed us, I am in awe of the positive cross-cultural interaction between the people of Los Angeles.

It is easy to see the problems from the inside — social and economic inequality, tensions that sometimes bubble to the surface, the challenge of educating 750,000 children who collectively speak more than 80 languages. It would be easy to focus on the chaotic events that have marked my time here: the energy crisis, wildfires, earthquakes and the recall election.

Yet, for an outsider, Los Angeles is something of a miracle. At the end of the day, you see millions of people from every background imaginable living side by side, working together and forging a future under the bright California sun. In today’s world, where terrorism, prejudice and hatred widen the already existing gaps between peoples, this is an inspiration. As I return to my own homeland, I carry with me the hope and promise that Los Angeles offers to the future — a fitting going-away present from the city of dreams.

Ambassador Yuval Rotem served as consul general of Israel in Los Angeles from September 1999 to August 2004.

7 Days In Arts


Gain insight into Oaxacan culture that goes beyond mole sauce this afternoon. The Skirball’s latest in their “Cinema: A Musical Journey Through Film” series is “I Am a Butterfly,” a documentary about Mexican singer-songwriter Lila Downs that explores her Mixtec roots, and their influence on her art.2:30 p.m. Free. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.


The Neil Simon comedy “Barefoot in the Park” returns to the stage at the Long Beach Playhouse. Revisit young love through Paul and Corrie Bratter, newlyweds acclimating to life together — and to their new living quarters: a tiny New York City fifth-floor walk-up with a skylight that leaks snow and comes with some very unusual neighbors.2 p.m. (Sunday), 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday). $18-$20. 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. (562) 494-1014.


Almost in answer to all the “Passion” controversy comes California Museum of Ancient Art’s well-timed lecture series, “Religion in the Ancient World.” In four lectures beginning tonight, moderator Jerome Berman welcomes speakers on the ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Hittite and Israelite religions, exploring the broader question of how they differ from today’s Judaism and Christianity, and offering insight into how it all began.Runs Mondays, March 1-29, 7:30-9 p.m. $60-$72 (series), $17-$20 (per lecture). Gallery Theater, Barnsdall Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 762-5500.


Forget Purim. Passover comes early to the Arclight thisyear. Get a jump-start on the holiday spirit with a big-screen screening of thecampy-but-classic “The Ten Commandments.” It’s the movie the way it was meant tobe seen — as big as Charlton Heston’s acting, complete with six-track DolbyDigital sound, and featuring Yul Brynner in all his glued-on side-ponytailglory. 7:30 p.m. $10-$11. 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 464-1478.



From celebrated actor, director and cabaret star to concentration camp prisoner and forced Nazi propagandist, Kurt Gerron’s career is explored through the 2002 documentary, “Prisoner of Paradise,” which was nominated for an Academy Award. It screens today as the second in a double-feature by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, following the documentary, “Last Dance,” about a dance-theater collaborative piece on the Holocaust by Pilobolus dance company and author/illustrator Maurice Sendak.7:30 p.m. Free. James Bridges Theater, UCLA, Westwood. (310) 206-3456.


Today, Yoram Gil makes fine art affordable, albeit teeny tiny fine art. Gallerie yoramgil’s exhibition, “Petite,” presents watercolor miniatures (we’re talking smaller than a postcard) by the artist and gallery owner, as well as small works by his gallery artists. His works will be offered for $36, which will be donated to Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles, and 10 percent of the proceeds from the other artists’ sales will benefit the organization, as well. Attend the opening receptions today or Sunday, before the good stuff’s all gone.6-8 p.m. (March 4), 5-8 p.m. (March 6). 319 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 275-2238.


It’s back to the Skirball tonight for a meeting of art and politics. Now in the Ruby Gallery, the museum presents “Visual Politics: The Social Activism of Ben Shahn.” The exhibition is divided into four parts, tracing the progress of the socialist Jewish artist’s work from the early 1930s until his death in 1969. In that time, the graphic artist addressed concerns including (but far from limited to) the Depression, anti-Semitism, ethnic bias, worker’s rights and nuclear testing.Runs through April 18. Noon-5 p.m. (Tues.-Fri.), 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Sun.). Free. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.