November 18, 2018

Israel must stop squatting Bedouin, lawmaker says

Israel must find a way to halt the illegal squatting of Israeli Bedouin, in order to help the Bedouin and to assert Israel's claim to the land, lawmaker Yuli Edelstein told a special forum.

The non-profit research institute Regavim conducted two events last week focusing on the sharp rise of squatting and illegal settling of vast tracts of land in the country’s Negev region.

Edelstein, minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, was the keynote speaker for an emergency public forum, called “Which Way for the Negev?,” at Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Its panel of experts included Prof. Rafi Yisraeli and Dr. Seth Frantzman. The special presentation concentrated on spiraling illegal building by the Negev’s Bedouin inhabitants and challenges to Israeli rule of law as well as solutions to counter the mounting crisis.

“Regavim deals with very complicated issues of land rights, which have become increasingly urgent.  To reclaim the land and assert Israel’s sovereign control, the organization engages in ongoing research and legal action to succeed in this mission,” said Minister Edelstein. “We must break the merry-go-round cycle of lawful eviction of illegal settlements followed by the immediate return of illegal squatting if we truly care about ensuring Government plans for Israeli Bedouins, which will benefit the entire population of the Negev.”

The second part of the Regavim fact-finding event was a tour to the sites of illegal activities for over 150 participants in three full buses of English-speaking Israelis and tourists, each led by experts. One site visited was the village of Al-Zarnog which is built on private land and is currently the subject of a court case in which Regavim is assisting its legal landowners.

“Our intention is to conduct more of these events to educate the public about the true facts on the ground and to increase pressure on the government to effectively enforce Israel’s sovereignty in the country’s national lands, including the Negev,” said Briggs. “There has been much attention focused on settlements deemed ‘illegal’ in the West Bank, including forced evacuations. Far less in the public eye have been shocking illegal land grabs on this side of the Green Line, in the Negev.”

“Homeland,” based on Israeli series, wins best drama Emmy

The television drama “Homeland,” which is based on the Israeli series “Hatufim,” was named the year's best drama series at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards.

“Homeland” also won Emmys for best actress – Claire Danes, and best actor – Damian Lewis, as well as for best writing. “Hatufim” creator, Israeli Gideon Raff, won the best writing award along with Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. The cast of “Homeland” was in Israel in May to film parts of the second season.

The Emmy Awards were held Sunday night in Los Angeles.

Homeland's win prevented “Mad Men” from winning its fifth straight best drama Emmy.

“Modern Family” took the Emmy for best comedy series.

The list of nominees had included several Jewish stars.  Jewish filmmaker and actress Lena Dunham was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Hannah Horvath on the HBO series “Girls.” The show also was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series and was inspired by Dunham’s experiences as a Jewish young woman living in New York City.

Larry David, who is best known as one of the creators of the TV show “Seinfeld,” was nominated as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The show also was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Mayim Bialik was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role as Amy Farrah Fowler on the CBS show “Big Bang Theory.” The show also was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Max Greenfield, an American actor known for his roles on “Veronica Mars,” “Ugly Betty” and “Modern Men,” was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role as Schmidt in the Fox series “New Girl.”

Palestinians insulted by Mitt Romney’s comments

Just eight weeks before the American presidential elections, Palestinians are furious over comments by Republican candidate Mitt Romney. The private remarks were made in May to wealthy donors but released only now.

Palestinians are “committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel,” Romney said, adding that prospects for a two-state solution of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel were dim.

“You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this going to remain an unsolved problem, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that, ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”

According to Mother Jones magazine, which posted the video clip of Romney’s comments on its website, the former Massachusetts governor made the remarks at a $50,000-per-plate fundraiser at Boca Raton, Florida. Boca Raton has a wealthy Jewish community, although it was not clear how many Jews were at the Romney fundraiser.

“It’s political illiteracy – has he even ever read a book about Palestine?” Mahdi Abdul Hadi, the president of the PASSIA think tank in east Jerusalem fumed to The Media Line. “On one level Palestinians are laughing at this, but on another level it will be very serious if this man has any say in our future.”

The comments come as the latest polls show a close race between Romney and President Obama. Although American Jews account for only two percent of the population, they represent significant voting blocs in important swing states like Florida. Polls show that more than two-thirds of Jews who plan to vote will cast their ballot for President Obama, although many believe he is not as supportive of Israel as were some of his predecessors.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, the putative seat of Palestinian government, Palestinians reacted angrily to Romney’s comments.

“He’s buying votes,” 27-year old Morad Al-Siory told The Media Line. “How can you judge Palestine if you haven’t seen both sides? I’m right here and I see it with my own eyes.”

Al-Siory said he had come to Ramallah to visit his family. His father, Mohammed, who owns a falafel stand, agreed with his son’s comments.

“How can you swim if you don’t get wet?” he asked. “I’d love to see American policy in the Middle East change.”

He also said, however, that he was frustrated with President Obama’s policy and that there was only a slight chance that he might do something different than Romney if re-elected.

“In the last four years he’s done nothing” Al-Siory said. “He fooled the Arabs and the Muslims with his speech in Cairo.”

He was referring to the speech that President Obama made in Egypt soon after taking office in which he called for “a new beginning” in relations between the US and the Arab world. It was seen at the time as an effort to reach out to the Arab world.

Palestinian officials also responded angrily to Romney’s comments.

“No one stands to gain more from peace with Israel than Palestinians and no one stands to lose more in the absence of peace than Palestinians,” chief negotiator Sa’ib Ariqat told the Reuters news agency. “Only those who want to maintain the Israeli occupation will claim the Palestinians are not interested in peace.”

But other Palestinian analysts said the statements had to be seen in context — as part of the election campaign, where Jewish donors and voters play an important role.

“Palestinians have learned through experience not to take statements made during election campaigns seriously,” Ghassan Al-Khatib, a professor of contemporary Arab studies at Bir Zeit University told The Media Line. “When you compare what we hear during the campaign and what presidents do in the future, you don’t see the connections.”

At the same time, Khatib said the statements further reinforced previous Palestinian attitudes toward the Republican candidate, who is perceived to have little foreign policy experience.

“This is not a surprise for the Palestinians,” Khatib said. “The impression is that Romney has been extraordinarily hostile and negative towards Palestinians all along.”

As protests rage over anti-Muslim movie, the cast claims it was misled by script

Protests over an anti-Muslim film continued outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, while in Yemen security guards fired at demonstrators who stormed the U.S. Embassy gates.

On Thursday in Yemen, the protesters tore down the American flag and burned it, according to reports. The protests in Cairo continued late Wednesday, a day after protesters climbed the embassy walls and tore down and tried to torch the American flag.

Security reportedly was increased at U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions around the globe in the aftermath of the violence allegedly incited by the film “Innocence of Muslims.”

The two-hour film, which attacks the Islamic prophet Muhammad, was seen as leading to the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. diplomats in a rocket attack on Tuesday at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. The protests were sparked by the translation into Arabic of a trailer for the movie.

In a statement sent to CNN, the 80 members of the cast and crew said they were “grossly misled” about the film, which they believed was a historical movie about life in the Arabian Desert.

“We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved,” the statement said according to CNN. “We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred.”

Anti-Muslim dialogue was dubbed in after the filming, an unnamed actress, who also said there was no Muhammad character in the script, told CNN.

The actress said she spoke to the director Wednesday and “He said he wrote the script because he wants the Muslims to quit killing,” CNN reported. The director reportedly told the Wall Street Journal that “Islam is a cancer.”

Media outlets, including JTA, had reported that a man calling himself Sam Bacile, who said he was the film's director and producer, claimed that he was an Israeli American real estate developer. But a consultant to the film, Steve Klein, a self-described militant Christian activist in Riverside, Calif., told the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg that the film's director is not Israeli and that the name is a pseudonym.

Bacile told the Associated Press that he went into hiding on Tuesday night, speaking to international media from an undisclosed location.

Klein told Goldberg that some 15 people were associated with the making of the film, all American citizens and most evangelicals.

Klein was called an “extremist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which said he is “Secretary and Founder” of Courageous Christians United, a group that protests outside of mosques and abortion clinics.

A high-ranking Israeli official in Los Angeles told JTA Wednesday that extensive inquiries among Hollywood insiders and members of the local Israeli community failed to turn up a single person who knew a Sam Bacile.

The Israeli government in Jerusalem could not turn up any citizenship records under that name, while California officials reported that no real estate license had ever been issued to a Sam Bacile.

Media bloggers and columnists are questioning why Bacile would claim that the $5 million film was paid for by “100 Jewish donors,” calling it a set-up. Blogger Edward Blackthorn (www.publici.com) raised some basic questions as to why $5 million was needed for a film described as “unprofessional” by the Hollywood Reporter, and expressed doubt that any producer could find 100 financial backers for such a dubious enterprise.

Director of anti-Muslim movie that sparked attacks on U.S. facilities not Israeli

The director of an anti-Islam film that helped sparked attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities is not Israeli as he claimed, a consultant to the film said.

The Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg reported that a Steve Klein, a consultant to the controversial film, “Innocence of Muslims,” and a self-described militant Christian activist in Riverside, Calif., said that the film's directo,r Sam Bacile, is not Israeli and that the name is a pseudonym.

Goldberg quoted Klein as saying: “I don't know that much about him. I met him, I spoke to him for an hour. He's not Israeli, no. I can tell you this for sure, the State of Israel is not involved.” Klein said: “His name is a pseudonym. All these Middle Eastern folks I work with have pseudonyms. I doubt he's Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign.”

Meanwhile, a high-ranking Israeli official in Los Angeles told JTA Wednesday that after numerous inquiries, it appeared that no one in the Hollywood film industry or in the local Israeli community knew of a Sam Bacile, the supposed director-writer of the incendiary film “Innocence of Muslims.”

The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other American diplomats were killed at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and the U.S. embassy in Cairo was attacked Tuesday evening by angry protesters.

Amb. John Christopher Stevens and three unnamed diplomats were killed Tuesday night in a rocket attack on their car in Benghazi, the White House confirmed Wednesday morning. U.S. officials said that the armed attack on the consulate may have been pre-planned.

On Tuesday evening, Egyptian protesters climbed over the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, pulled down an American flag and tried to set it alight.

The attacks follow the release online of an Arabic translation of the movie. Media reports said it was directed by Bacile, who described himself as a California real estate developer. The two-hour movie attacks the Islamic prophet Muhammad, making him out to be a fraud.

The film was screened one time at a movie theater in Hollywood, someone identifying himself as Bacile told the AP.

Bacile said went into hiding on Tuesday night, speaking to international media from an undisclosed location.

Klein told Goldberg that I there are some 15 people associated with the making of the film, all American citizens.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attack.

“The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation,” she said in a statement. “But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

The Los Angeles chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Shura Council are scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday to condemn the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and attacks on diplomatic facilities and persons in Libya and Egypt.

In Washington, CAIR’s national officials called on Muslims in the Middle East “to ignore the trashy anti-Islam film that resulted in the attacks.”

A kiss of the grape — and other adult libations — in Jerusalem

Wine bars, a new twist on an old theme, are drawing huge numbers of clientele in most metropolitan cities. What about the Holy City? Although the selection in Jerusalem doesn’t quite compare to that of its American and European rivals, there are enough choices in the Jewish capital to erase the so-called vapid reputation of kosher wine forever. Kosher vintners have long been removing the stigma, but at these establishments, with fine wines available by the bottle and the glass, it is a much more distant memory. An evening exploring these wines, savory dishes (many of them finger foods) prepared by on-site, professional chefs de cuisine, and memorable desserts that pair equally well with certain vintages or spirits, are a definite recipe for relaxation. Check them out while you traverse the spiritual center of the universe at the New Year and all year. 

ADOM

In name and spirit, Adom, Hebrew for “Red,” embodies the pleasure of fine wines and fine dining. Tucked into the hip, bustling alleyway of bars called Rivlin Street, just off Jaffa Road, guests enter the picturesque gated patio. A quick peek at its retaining wall, studded with embedded wine bottles and corks, is a not-so-subtle introduction to what’s in store. An impressive list of 160 wines is paired with three seating areas, whose stone walls and curved arches warm up by candlelight. The rotating wine of the month enables guests to sample new varieties by the glass at a discount. And a menu of international bistro cuisine, including beautifully presented salads, meats, fish dishes and more gives way to a late-night menu of finger food after 11 p.m. Adom is clustered in the only area of Jerusalem where anything close to a wine bar exists, in the tight mix of restaurants between the light-rail tracks and the Mamilla and David Citadel hotels. This restaurant is not supervised kosher but it, of course, relies on Israeli products that are certified kosher and it does offer kosher wines on its extensive list, making it a great option for a stop on your tasting tour. It is admittedly a little tricky to find, but the search is worth it for its ambience and charm. Simplify your search for Adom by entering from Jaffa Road No. 31, near the light-rail stop. Head down an intriguing path lined with many other establishments that draw huge crowds on Thursday and Saturday nights. Pass through this maze of hopping joints and heavy foot traffic to the tranquil Feingold Courtyard. 

Adom, 31 Jaffa Road, Jerusalem. 972-2-624-6242. 

THE WINERY/MIRROR BAR

The gorgeous Mamilla Hotel is one big bite of eye candy. After you enter this modernist retreat, head upstairs to its long and inviting wine bar, simply called the Winery. Sure, there are many other lovely places to sneak away for a romantic gourmet experience in and around the uber-chic Mamilla part of town, but only here will you find a massive slab of beautiful green glass atop a long wooden bar. Behind the counter, the Winery is tricked out with state-of-the art chilled, nitrogen-equipped dispensaries. Request your wine on tap or from the enticing selection along the exposed cellar, facing you along the wall behind the bar. 

The Mamilla Hotel has staffed this unique bar with trained sommeliers who offer curated tasting experiences. About 80 Israeli wines, from larger houses as well as boutiques, are on the menu. If you’re hungry late at night, take note that the Winery serves only small, cold plates of meat and fish from 3 to 8 p.m. After the Winery closes, you’re in for a treat. The green glass functions as a mere navigational device of sorts. Continue past the bar to the inviting entry point of the chic Mirror Bar. After 8 p.m., it opens up to a large, dimly lit area with comfy seats, perfect for viewing the massive flat-screen TV. Or, along small bar tables and chairs, you can take in the sounds of a live DJ working his groove at the internally lit marble bar. Take your party outside on the balcony with a view of the stone-lined pedestrian mall below or slip inside the separately enclosed glass-walled cigar lounge for more indulgence. 

The short bar menu here is heavy on meat dishes — think scrumptious mini burgers on brioche buns. But it also features delicious ceviche with fresh citrus and avocado and focaccia with herbal aioli for vegetarians and those seeking lighter fare. Every option available from the Winery menu remains available here as well. So you’ll have your pick from the fabulous menu-within-a-menu “Cellar” selections. Our favorite was a Katzav’s Merlot, aged in French oak barrels and bursting with ripe, tart fruit. Ready to indulge more? The almond sachlav with coffee truffle is one cup of steaming, hot ambrosia worth every gram of its heavy caloric cost. Kosher. 

11 King Solomon St., Jerusalem. 972-2-548-2211. mamillahotel.com. 

SCALA 

Just in case you had any doubt, this tiny neighborhood is one of Jerusalem’s key centers of gastronomy, spirituality and hospitality. You’re only minutes from the Old City and a host of other fine dining — and drinking — establishments that have long hosted tourists, foodies, gourmands and more. 

As you exit the Mamilla Hotel, head up King David Street to the massive David Citadel. Take the elevator up to the Scala Restaurant for another celebration of the senses. This high-end establishment caters to a clientele made up mostly of non-hotel guests. One taste of its menu, and you’ll understand why. 

Scala boasts the romantic night out trifecta. Its extravagant combination of cocktail bar, restaurant and wine bar all in one leaves little wanting. A stunning glass wall-to-wall wine cellar boasts 60 select Israeli wines, yours for the choosing. The labels range widely in provenance, taste and price, with nearly every imaginable kosher option, including renowned wines from the distinguished label, the Cave, to suit whatever you order for dinner, and high-end spirits, such as top-ticket Johnnie Walker Blue Label, paired with decadent chocolate desserts. 

If you’re not sure which way to proceed, ask the wait staff or Scala’s talented resident chef for their advice on the best way to enjoy whatever libations you choose. Every dish on the menu, from the tapas to the entrees, has a drink-in-waiting. Our selections ran the full spectrum, and each dish, from salad and fish to chicken and beef, was worth a return visit. Ditto for the desserts. Swoon-worthy, surprising blends of flavors included a hazelnut and coffee cream. The Dark Chocolate Delight is an artful ensemble of hot chocolate lava cake with apricot sorbet, served with additional whipped hot chocolate pudding with brandy and rich dark chocolate garnishes. It all went down smoothly with a Yatir 2007 Merlot-Shiraz-Cabernet. Definitely an experience to be repeated. Kosher. 

Scala, David Citadel Hotel, 7 King David St., Jerusalem. 972-2-621-2030. scala-rest.com.

Lisa Alcalay Klug is the author of “Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe.” Her new book, “Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe,” debuts in October. She is online at lisaklug.com.

Israel trip helps Polish Jews in Jewish rediscovery

After Jerzy heard about frequent vandalism at an old Jewish cemetery in his home city of Gdansk, Poland, he decided to visit the graveyard.

It had fallen into such disrepair that “people would go there to drink beer,” said Jerzy, who gave only his middle name due to fears of anti-Semitism. 

He made a few trips to the cemetery, meeting a member of the local Jewish community who invited him to come to Friday night services and Shabbat dinner. 

“I liked Jews all my life,” said Jerzy, 32, who although not raised Jewish had worn a Star of David as a child. “It was the opposite of all of Poland.” Around Gdansk, he said, he sometimes sees graffiti of a Jewish star hanging from a gallows. 

As he learned more about Poland’s Jews, Jerzy began to research his own family history. He traveled to his father’s birthplace near Lublin to find his father’s birth certificate; soon afterward, he learned that his father and his maternal grandfather were Jewish.

Three years later, Jerzy — whose arms are covered in tattoos — has across the back of his neck a huge Hebrew tattoo that reads “Shema Yisrael.” He is converting to Judaism to gain recognition from traditional denominations.

Jerzy was one of 19 participants to travel to Israel last month on a trip for Poles with newly discovered Jewish roots. The trip, according to Shavei Israel, the group that organized it, aims to teach participants about Judaism and to involve them more in Jewish life and support of Israel.

“The Jewish people are a small people, and there are these communities out there that were once a part of us,” said Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel. “When someone discovers or rediscovers their Jewish roots, it makes them more sympathetic to Israel and Jewish causes, so it’s something we stand to benefit from [regarding] diplomacy and hasbarah,” Israeli public relations.

Based in Israel, Shavei Israel also runs programs for those with Jewish roots in Spain, Portugal, India and Russia.

The two-week August trip took participants throughout Israel. They traveled through Jerusalem, to northern Israel and also to West Bank settlements such as Hebron and Mitzpeh Yericho, where they spent Shabbat. Freund said that the visits to settlements do not indicate that the trip takes political positions.

“We stay completely away from political messaging,” Freund said. “There is no political agenda here. The agenda is to give them an opportunity to see the land of Israel and visit important historical sites.”

The group also visited Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum, to gain an Israeli perspective on a tragedy also etched deep in Polish national memory.

Trip leaders did not discuss politics, participants said. Several said that their favorite part of the journey was the feeling of being in a Jewish society where they were free to wear kippot on the street and to try out their Hebrew. 

After doing advanced coursework in Jewish studies, Gosia Tichoruk, 35, learned two years ago that her maternal great-grandmother was Jewish — and therefore that she, her mother and her grandmother were as well, according to Jewish law. In Israel, “The first thing that struck me was you’re walking down the beach, and you have Jews all around you,” she said. “It’s this safety you have, people greeting you with ‘Shavuah tov’ and ‘Shabbat shalom.’ “

Like a few of the participants, Tichoruk has started keeping kosher, observing Shabbat and learning Hebrew. She said Jewish life is sparse in her hometown of Poznan, but cities such as Krakow and Warsaw have more Jewish resources.

The Krakow Jewish Community Center has been a boon to Jedrek Pitorak, 23, who goes there for Shabbat dinners, holiday celebrations and Hebrew classes. Pitorak, who has known he is Jewish his entire life, was one of the group’s most experienced Israel tourists. Unlike many who were first-time visitors, he came here in 2009 on Taglit-Birthright Israel, which sponsors free trips to Israel for young adults.

Pitorak is heartened by “how many small children we see here. It’s a bright sign.” Although he’s involved in the contemporary Polish Jewish community, he does not think his homeland will become a center of Jewish life, as it was before almost all of its Jews perished in the Holocaust. Approximately 4,000 registered Jews currently live in Poland, although community leaders suspect that tens of thousands of Poles may not have identified as Jewish.

“There are many old people and the community is not growing,” Pitorak said of Krakow’s Jews. “If you come to the JCC, you see more volunteers and sociologists than real Jews.”

Participants said that they enjoyed Israel’s religious options, historical sites, beaches and food. But one of the features of Israeli life that Pitorak likes best may surprise Israelis and American tourists alike. He appreciates “how polite the drivers are to each other and the pedestrians.”

Israeli man arrested in New Delhi airport for accompanying dad without valid ticket

An Israeli man was arrested for entering Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi with a canceled ticket, reported Press Trust of India.

PTI identified the man, who was apprehended on Friday, as Oren Levy.

“The Israeli national gained entry into the check-in area on the strength of a printout of his already canceled ticket to Amman dated Aug. 31 with an intention to see off his father traveling by the said flight,” explained Indian security sources, as reported by the India-based newswire service.

Palestinian injures Israeli man with axe

An Israeli man was injured when a Palestinian man attacked him with an axe.

The Israeli was hit in the chest and taken to a Jerusalem hospital, according to reports.

The attack occurred near a Palestinian village in the West Bank. The victim, reportedly from a nearby settlement, was documenting Palestinian building violations in the village, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Onlookers held the attacker until security forces arrived, the newspaper reported.

Families of Burgas victims attend memorial ceremony, visit attack site

The families of the Israelis killed in a terror attack at the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, attended a ceremony for the victims.

The memorial was held Tuesday at the Great Synagogue in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. The families of the five victims of the July 18 attack visited the site of the suicide bombing a day earlier.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev said after the ceremony that he has set a deadline of Sept. 15 for a public report on the investigation into the attack, according to the Focus News Agency.

“Israel and Bulgaria will not calm down and hold our peace until all people involved in the terror attack in Burgas are punished,” said Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s deputy prime minister and minister of strategic affairs, said at the ceremony. “We will pursue them [the perpetrators] with all the strength we have and we will not give up until we get even with them. We will do it without wondering and without batting an eyelid, just like we have always done.”

Bulgaria’s minister of economy, energy and tourism, Delyan Dobrev, met with the families on Monday at the airport.

“The security measures that were taken for the tourists in Bulgaria will not be just temporary but will remain for good,” he said according to Focus. “In cooperation with the Israeli services, we analyzed the security at key places in Bulgaria and we will apply even more measures to guarantee the enhanced security.”

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

Mayim Bialik’s pain-coping techniques

Mayim Bialik, who nearly lost her right hand thumb in a car accident two weeks ago, told “Access Hollywood” in an interview that immediately following the accident, her first instinct was to get out of the car, fearing it would explode. “Many Denzel Washington films” ran through her head, she said. Bialik also thought about her family, saying to herself, “I’m a mom, this is not happening. I have kids waiting for me. It’s my son’s birthday—and it was. That was my first thought.”

The Emmy-nominated “Big Bang Theory” star declined to use pain killers, instead opting for methods she used while giving birth that ”really reaffirmed my faith in pain with a purpose and the meditative properties, the ability to lower your blood pressure, which women do in labor. It absolutely is what I used to get me through all stages of this.”

The accident did not affect the filming of the sixth season of “Big Bang Theory,” as Bialik’s hand is being hidden from the camera during the shooting.

Egyptian court sentences 76 in Israeli embassy attack

An Egyptian court sentenced 76 citizens in last September’s attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

Seventy-four of the convicted protesters were given one-year suspended prison sentences on Sunday. One was sent to a juvenile detention center, while a former police officer who fled the country after criticizing the Mubarak regime was sentenced to five years in prison in absentia, the Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm reported.

More than 1,000 Egyptians demonstrated at the embassy Sept. 9, 2011, many after an Egyptian Facebook group called on protesters to gather at the embassy and “urinate on the wall.” During the demonstration, protesters tore down the Israeli flag from the high-rise building’s roof for the second time in a month.

Three people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in the riots.

The protesters broke down the 8-foot-high security wall surrounding the embassy compound and entered the building, requiring the evacuation of Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, embassy personnel, their families and Israelis staying at the embassy.

Six security employees stranded in the building were later removed by an Egyptian commando unit during a rescue operation.

The riots took place after six Egyptian security personnel were killed in August 2011 as Israel pursued the bombers of a civilian bus near Eilat.

Fear and Daniel Gordis

For reasons I can’t quite understand, many leaders in the pro-Israel community continue to insist that the young generation of American Jews has abandoned Israel.

That’s just not true. 

“Ours is the first generation in which the centrality of Zion in Jewish dreams is beginning to fade,” Rabbi Daniel Gordis wrote in this week’s Tablet, an online Jewish magazine. “It is fading rapidly, and we know why. … [A] younger generation for whom war is anathema and occupation is morally unbearable has begun to drift away. …Young Jews today, discouraged by Israeli policies that they cannot abide, either explicitly or tacitly join those who condemn the Jewish State.”

Cut to:

John F. Kennedy International Airport, Aug. 14. Amid the bustling crowd, one group of 15 men and women, ages 18 to 22, all clad in dark green T-shirts, stands out. Although they shout to one another in English, their T-shirts have just Hebrew writing: “Olim Tzahal” — Israeli Army Immigrants.

They are on their way to join the Israel Defense Forces.

This year, a record group of 127 men and women flew on the Soldier Aliyah flight sponsored by the Israeli immigration group Nefesh b’Nefesh. Thirty-two of these young volunteers are from the greater Los Angeles area. They were joining an increasing number of young Angelenos who choose to enlist in the IDF.

I know a lot of these kids. Ezra, the Milken student who lives down the block and used to carpool with my son — soon he’ll be driving a tank. Alexi Rosenfeld, who just graduated from Milken, snapped the “class picture” of the group at JFK Airport and sent it to me with a note, “Hi Rob, As you may remember I have decided to join the IDF and will be postponing my photography career (unless the IDF sends me back!).” The daughter of a friend who is participating in secret training maneuvers in the Negev. The son of another friend, who just completed parachute training.

But this is just a small group, right? Anecdotal evidence is hardly proof that the rest of American Jewish youth isn’t drifting away. 

Except it just isn’t.

Gordis writes: “A recent study asked American Jews if the destruction of Israel would be a personal tragedy for them. … Amazingly, 50 percent of those 35 years old and younger said that Israel’s destruction would not be a personal tragedy.”

Amazingly! Amazingly, Gordis considers a study conducted in 2006 to be “recent.” And amazingly he neglects to mention a truly recent study that completely contradicts his point. In May 2012, Steven M. Cohen, who conducted the 2006 survey, completed a new study that found “Non-Orthodox younger Jews, ages 35 and under, are substantially more attached to Israel than those ages 35-44.”

That’s right: There is no evidence Israel is losing the next generation of American Jews. In fact, the opposite is true.

This proves a couple of things: 

1. Never ask a young person if the loss of anything would be a “personal tragedy,” unless you’re talking about his immediate family member or his fake I.D.

2. In the pro-Israel community, bad news travels fast, good news takes the 405 at rush hour.

Trading on the “next generation” fear is a useful device for Jewish leaders across the political spectrum. Peter Beinart got a whole book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” out of it. 

“For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at the door,” Beinart famously and hyperbolically wrote, “and now, to their horror, they are finding many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.”

Except, of course, they haven’t.

Gordis, senior vice president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, won the 2009 National Jewish Book Award for “Saving Israel.” Get it? “Saving Israel,” “The Crisis of Zionism” — though Beinart and Gordis disagree publicly, and stridently, on Israeli policies, they have a kind of Mutual B.S. Pact, bonded together in their common fear mongering. 

So why? Why do we insist on looking at the dark side? The thing we most repress comes to define us, Carl Jung once said. If the Jewish people’s shadow is fear, is it surprising that Israel adopted as its national anthem, Hatikvah, “The Hope?”

We want hope, but we can’t quite embrace it. And when good news comes, when our hopes are realized, we continue to live in its opposite. 

In the case of Israel, I believe that’s because the truth is just a bit messier than Gordis and many in the pro-Israel community would have it. The point of Gordis’ (truly) recent essay is that American Jewry depends on Israel for its very survival.

“This is the point that today’s younger generation of American Jews simply do not understand,” he writes. “American Jewish life as it now exists would not survive the loss of Israel.” 

Hard to argue with a sentence that includes the phrase “as it now exists.” Because it’s impossible to imagine a world without Israel in which Israel’s largest protector and supporter, the United States of America, would turn its back on its ally, or not have the power to protect it. In that scenario, the loss of Israel might be just one of a host of American Jewish worries.

But dangling visions of post-nuclear Armageddon before us is just Gordis’ way of trying to tell us how much Israel strengthens American Jewish identity.

“Jews today no longer think of themselves as a tiptoeing people,” he writes. “Without the State of Israel, the self-confidence and sense of belonging that American Jews now take for granted would quickly disappear.”

Again, after the Apocalypse I’m not sure our biggest worry will be our depleted self-confidence, but so be it. 

Where Gordis, and to a lesser extent Beinart, misread or misrepresent young American Jews is in not defining more carefully the word, “Israel.”

The American Jewish romance with Israel, like America’s relationship with Israel more generally, changed dramatically after the Six-Day War in 1967. What had been a largely supportive community turned overnight into a passionate, proud and activist one. After that war, romance turned into love.

The reasons for this are integral to understanding the truly recent statistics.

In 1967, Israel fought and won a defensive war against daunting odds. Israel was restrained until it couldn’t be, tough and brilliant when it had to be and united as much as it ever would be. The Six-Day War burned an ideal of Israel deep into the American, and American Jewish, psyche.

In the 45 years since, the closer Israel comes to achieving that ideal, the more American Jews are drawn to it. The farther it drifts, the farther their affections do as well.

So when Gordis writes that it is Israel that has stiffened American Jewry’s spine, he is only half right. It is a certain kind of Israel — that state that strives toward its ideal state — that resonates, and will always resonate, with American Jewish youth.

There is no blank check of American Jewish love for Israel, but there is a lot of money, a ton of money, in the account. The idea that support for Israel has ever been completely independent of its actions is ahistorical, and doesn’t apply to any Jewish group — Orthodox, right, left, secular.

The bottom line is this: If we who love Israel worry about quality, the quantity will take care of itself.

You can—you should—follow Rob Eshman on Twitter @foodaism.

Foxman: Draft Israeli Arabs, haredim to defend their neighborhoods

Israel should consider drafting its Arab and Haredi population to defend their neighborhoods, according to a prominent American Jewish leader.

Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Times of Israel that the proposal would undercut ideological arguments since draftees would take care of their own neighborhoods.

“You’re going to be protecting your own community, your own home, your own family. There will be some Arabs and some Haredim who will say `no,’ I understand that,” Foxman told the Times of Israel. “But if you don’t care about your family, about your street, then what are you doing there in the first place?”

In February, the Israeli Supreme Court nullified the Tal Law that exempted haredi Orthodox Israelis from military service. Since the expiration of the law on August 1, the Israeli Defense Force said that it has yet to encounter any significant problems in putting haredi men through the draft process.

Israeli Arabs are not required to do military service.

Foxman said that his plan would allow a more equal share in the national burden and provide the needed manpower to upgrade the Home Front Command so it can be better prepared for emergency situations.

“The beauty of that is that Israeli Arabs would begin with their own community,” he reportedly said. “They would take responsibility for the shelters, the communications networks, for the medical preparations, God forbid, of the home front. After that, they would expand to other parts of Israel.”

He added, “The same would be true for the Haredim: they would start with Bnei Brak and Mea Shearim but eventually would work in Petach Tikva and wherever.”

Hezbollah says can kill tens of thousands of Israelis

The Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah said on Friday it could kill tens of thousands of Israelis by striking specific targets in Israel with what it described as precision-guided rockets.

“I tell the Israelis that you have a number of targets, not a large number … that can be hit with precision rockets … which we have,” Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said in a broadcast speech.

He said he would not name the targets and did not say whether the rockets were newly acquired weapons.

Nasrallah said his group could strike a limited number of targets in Israel which if hit would lead to mass casualties – a possible reference to Israeli nuclear facilities, though he said he did not spell out what he meant.

Israel, the only Middle East country outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has never confirmed or denied having nuclear weapons.

“Hitting these targets with a small number of rockets will turn … the lives of hundreds of thousands of Zionists to real hell, and we can talk about tens of thousands of dead,” said Nasrallah.

Nasrallah was speaking on the occasion of Jerusalem Day, marked each year on the last Friday of Ramadan in accordance with a tradition established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late supreme leader of Iran.

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.

Israeli-American coach David Blatt leads Russian national basketball team to bronze

The Russian Olympic men’s basketball team, coached by Israeli-American David Blatt, took a bronze medal at the London games.

The Russians played Argentina’s national team for the third place medal. The final score was Russia 81, Argentina 77.

It is the first time Russia has won an Olympic medal in basketball since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Blatt, who is currently the coach of Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv team, has helped rebuild the Russian national team since being brought on as head coach in 2006, Sports Illustrated reported. Under Blatt, the Russian national team won the 2007 European Championship.

He played for Princeton University from 1977 to 1981 and on the gold medal-winning U.S. team in the 1981 Maccabiah Games. Following the Maccabiah Games, Blatt joined an Israeli Super League team. He played for several Israeli teams until he was injured in 1993 and took up coaching.

Report: Calls between Lebanon and Burgas increased before attack

Israel has evidence of many telephone calls between Lebanon and Burgas in the two months before the bombing that killed six people, The New York Times reported.

The volume of calls intensified in the three days before the attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists, the newspaper reported Thursday, citing an unnamed senior government official, pointing the finger even more directly—in Israel’s eyes—at the terror group Hezbollah.

“We know the sources in Lebanon,” although not the identity of those on the other end in Bulgaria, the official told the Times.

Israel placed the blame for the July 18 attack on both Iran and Hezbollah. The United States and Bulgaria reportedly agree with the assessment, but have not said so officially.

The Bulgarian investigation has “largely stalled,” according to The New York Times. The attacker and his accomplices have not yet been identified. Bulgarian officials are hesitant to declare Hezbollah responsible without hard evidence, according to the newspaper.

An unnamed senior security official in Germany was quoted as saying that the European allies are skeptical that Hezbollah was responsible for the attack, speculating that Iran used “individuals with Hezbollah affiliation.” 

PA opposes moment of silence for slain Israelis

The Palestinian Authority opposed a moment of silence at the London Olympics for the 40th anniversary of the Palestinian “Black September” terrorist group’s killing of 11 Israeli team members in Munich, Palestinian Media Watch reported.

On July 25, the PA’s daily publication said in a headline that sports “are meant for peace, not for racism.” Jibril Rajoub, President of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, wrote International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge thanking him for not granting Israel’s request of a moment of silence at the opening ceremony.

“Sports are a bridge to love, interconnection, and spreading of peace among nations; it must not be a cause of division and spreading of racism between them [nations],” Rajoub, wrote in the letter, which appeared in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.

The PA publication does not refer to the Munich murders as terrorism, simply calling the events of 1972 “the Munich Operation.”

Clinton: Remain vigilant against Holocaust denial

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Holocaust denial and Israel criticism that crosses into anti-Semitism require vigilance.

On Tuesday, Clinton addressed a symposium at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on preventing genocide.

“Let me begin by acknowledging that here in this museum, it’s important to note that every generation produces extremist voices denying that the Holocaust ever happened,” she said.  “And we must remain vigilant against those deniers and against anti-Semitism, because when heads of state and religious leaders deny the Holocaust from their bully pulpits, we cannot let their lies go unanswered. 

“When we hear Holocaust glorification and public calls to, quote, ‘finish the job,’ we need to make clear that violence, bigotry will not be tolerated,” she continued. “And, yes, when criticism of Israeli government policies crosses over into demonization of Israel and Jews, we must push back.”

Clinton outlined policies that she said were aimed at genocide prevention, including training officials in detecting warning signs, the use of technology to enhance monitoring, pressuring oppressive regimes and making clear that perpetrators will be held accountable.

She also emphasized limits, suggesting that some well-intentioned efforts could worsen the situation.

“We have to approach this work with a large dose of humility and understanding,” Clinton said.

The museum released a poll, timed for the symposium, showing that substantial majorities of Americans believe that genocide is still possible and favoring intervention to stop it. The poll, commissioned and conducted by Burson-Marsteller, a public relations firm, and Penn Schoen Berland, a pollster, showed that 94 percent of Americans believe genocide “is still very much a concern and could occur today.”

It also showed that 69 percent “think the U.S. should prevent or stop genocide or mass atrocities from occurring in another part of the world.”

In Bulgaria, Israel’s tourism minister vows to continue tourism ties

Israeli Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov traveled to Bulgaria to shore up the relationship between the two countries in the wake of the deadly attack on a bus full of Israeli tourists.

Accompanying Misezhnikov on Monday’s trip were senior representatives of the Israeli tourism industry.

“After what happened in Burgas, we will continue to travel as tourists—in Israel and in Bulgaria, and wherever else we wish,” Misezhnikov said. “We will not reward the terrorist act. We will not react to it with fear.”

The minister attended a memorial service at Burgas Airport and met with the Jewish community in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Later he met in the city with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov .

“Bulgaria and Israel are friendly nations, and we will not allow the terrorist attack in Burgas to overshadow our traditionally good ties,” Misezhnikov told Borisov. “Any change in our relations would be a reward for terrorism.”

He said the two countries have a common enemy in Iran.

During the first half of 2012, there was an 11 percent increase in tourists from Bulgaria to Israel as compared to the same time last year. According to data from the Bulgarian Ministry of Tourism, nearly 139,000 Israelis visited Bulgaria in 2011. The same year, more than 8,000 Bulgarian tourists visited Israel.

Where are the Munich elegies?

This year, Tisha b’Av marks not only the destruction of both Temples, but with the opening ceremony of the London Olympics just a night earlier, the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre.

On this day of mourning and fasting, which begins at sundown on Saturday, how can we remember the tragedy of the 1972 Summer Olympics, when 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered?

The International Olympic Committee has rejected a call for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony in memory of those killed, announcing instead a tribute in Munich and holding a ceremony on Monday at the Olympic Village with remarks by the IOC’s chief, Jacques Rogge.

Even in 1972, I was already having trouble remembering.

Returning to UCLA my sophomore year, just weeks after the tragedy, I remember being pushed by more serious minds into working on an issue of the school’s Jewish student newspaper, Ha’Am, which at its center had a spread titled “Post Olympic Outpour.” At first I resisted, thinking “Why do I need to go through the pain all over again?”

Now, 40 years later, I wonder how many of us are still resisting that pain.

Traditionally on Tisha b’Av, we remember our tragedies by sitting on low seats or the floor, lowering the lights and chanting in a mournful trope the book of Eicha (Lamentations). In many communities, elegies called kinot are chanted as well that commemorate such tragic events as the public burning of the Torah in Paris, the massacre of German Jews during the first Crusades, the Ten Martyrs (which you may recall from the Yom Kippur Martyrology service), the York massacre and, more recently, the Holocaust.

In 2012, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, writing in Jewish Action, the magazine of the Orthodox Union, described the emotional impact of the kinot.

“All the kinot, regardless of who the author may be, express strong feelings of loss, grief and despair,” he wrote. “On Tishah B’Av day, the reader must come away from a reading of the poems with similar feelings.”

Weinreb went on to say that after studying the kinot texts over a course of months, he found himself “spiritually exhausted by the process,” holding on to “those few phrases of hope with which almost all the kinot conclude.”

It is from the intent of the kinot that I think we can find an inspiration for a different form of Munich elegy.

A formal kinah commemorating the Munich 11 has yet to enter the liturgy—if someone has written one please email me—but other forms, though not formal kinot, can help us process our feelings of loss and despair. For example, the personal tragic stories told through films can touch us, moving us toward memory.

In England on Tisha b’Av, the New London Synagogue about 10 miles from the Olympic Village will be showing the Academy Award-winning documentary “One Day in September.” Released in 1999, it’s a film that, while making points about the Palestinian terrorists and botched German police work, mourns the victims by recounting the story of Israeli fencing coach Andre Spitzer and his wife, Ankie.

Another film that like an elegy re-enacts the tragedy, Spielberg’s 2005 “Munich”—it also has a fictionalized account of Israel’s response—will be shown at Temple Concord in Syracuse, N.Y.

The audience for these two films, sitting in a darkened setting, drawn together to listen and watch the story being retold, will be reminded of a different Jewish theme internalized when we hear the kinot chanted—we do not remember and mourn alone.

For most of us, writing a kinah would be a challenge, but adding a line to a petition asking for a moment of silence presented by Ankie Spitzer might be a way to get in the spirit of it. When I read the comments on the petition site, they seemed to form a kind of people’s elegy of prayer, memory and anger:

“I was there, I felt it, I cried for it, I still pray for all them,” Johanna Bronsztein wrote.

“We must never forget and forever respect,” Brenda Rezak wrote.

Jeri Roth adds, “If these people had been any other nationality, we wouldn’t have to ask for a moment of silence.”

Yet for many of us, home on Sunday, watching the Summer Olympics’ events on TV— archery, fencing, weightlifting—in our own darkened rooms, it’s all too easy to forget.

With so much Olympic pageantry and competition, with the promise of gold, silver and bronze to divert me, I will need my own kinah to pull me back to a zone of “Never forget”—a simple list to remember what happened 40 summers ago. Sometime that day, resistance gone, I will try to touch again the loss I felt in 1972.

I will read the names:

Moshe Weinberg, wrestling coach
Yossef Romano, Ze’ev Friedman and David Berger, weightlifters
Yakov Springer, weightlifting judge
Eliezer Halfin and Mark Slavin, wrestlers
Yossef Gutfreund, wrestling referee
Kehat Shorr, shooting coach
Andrei Spitzer, fencing coach
Amitzur Shapira, track coach

Will this simple act also allow me to dream that a tragedy like this will not be repeated? That is my hope.

Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at edmojace@gmail.com.

Planes with wounded return to Israel; Peres: ‘Israel will act against terror’

President Shimon Peres said in response to the deadly attack in Bulgaria that Israel will “locate and act against terror all over the world,” as the wounded and dead arrived in Israel.

Two planes carrying Israelis wounded from Wednesday evening’s attack were landed in Israel at approximately 3:30 local time on Thursday. After landing, passengers were sent to hospitals near the airport or near their homes. A third plane has brought home the 70 Israelis who escaped injury in the attack.

Brig.-Gen. Itzik Kreis, head of the Israeli Defense Force Medical Corps, said that the wounded returning to Israel were “less seriously hurt than we expected.”

Two of those wounded in the attack remained in hospitals in Sofia, Bulgaria—with one in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Kreis said that victims “got very good medical care in Bulgaria.” He said that injuries suffered in the bus bombing were similar to injuries caused by bus bombings in Israel.

“This was a bloody attack against civilians going on vacation. Many of them lost their lives, others were wounded for no reason, for no purpose. They were attacked for the simple and unacceptable reason that they were Jewish or Israeli,” Peres said.

“We will not forget, we will not ignore and we will not give up. Israel will locate and act against terror all over the world. We have the capabilities for it and are committed to act. We have the ability to silence and incapacitate the terror organizations. Anywhere in the world where it is possible we shall build friendship and anywhere in the world where it is necessary we will chase murderous terrorists. We will uproot terror both near and far.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday morning that of the seven dead, five were Israelis, one was the bus driver and one the suicide bomber.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday that Israel has concrete information that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group carried out the attack.

The dead have not yet been positively identified, according to reports.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry released video footage of the man identified as the suicide bomber.

The bomber was dressed like a tourist and carried a fake Michigan driver’s license, Novinite.com reported.  He reportedly had hung out near the buses slated to take the Israeli tourists to their hotel for more than an hour.

Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov reiterated on Thursday that Bulgarian officials had received no warning of an imminent attack on Israeli or Jewish targets.

Suspected suicide bomber had fake U.S. I.D.; Surveillance camera captures image

A suicide bomber carried out an attack that killed seven people in a bus transporting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, the interior minister said on Thursday, and Israel said Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants were to blame.

Iran denied it was behind Wednesday’s attack at Burgas airport, a popular gateway for tourists visiting the Black Sea coast.

Video surveillance footage showed the bomber was similar in appearance to tourists arriving at the airport, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said.

The bomber had been circling around a group of buses, which were about to take Israeli tourists to a resort near Burgas, for about an hour before the explosion, the footage showed.

“We have established there was a person who was a suicide bomber in this attack. This person had a fake driving license from the United States, from the state of Michigan,” Tsvetanov told reporters at the airport.

“He looked like anyone else – a normal person with Bermuda shorts and a backpack,” he said.

The bomber was said to be 36 years old and had been in the country for between four and seven days before the attack.

Special forces had managed to obtain DNA samples from the fingers of the bomber and were now checking databases in an attempt to identify him, Tsvetanov said.

The foreign ministry said seven people were killed in the attack, including the Bulgarian bus driver and the bomber. The Israeli foreign ministry confirmed that five Israelis were killed.

The tourists had arrived in Bulgaria on a charter flight from Israel and were on the bus in the airport car park when the blast tore through the vehicle. Body parts were strewn across the ground, mangled metal hung from the double-decker bus’s ripped roof and black smoke billowed over the airport.

AIRPORT CLOSED

On Thursday, the airport in Burgas – a city of 200,000 people at the center of a string of seaside resorts – remained closed and police prevented people from approaching.

Beyond the cordons, about 100 holidaymakers waited for their flights but had been told they would be there until midnight. Officials were setting up portable toilets and tents for stranded travelers and Bulgaria’s parliament opened with a one minute silence in memory of the bombing victims.

“It felt like an earthquake and then I saw flying pieces of meat,” said Georgi Stoev, an airport official. “It was horrible, just like in a horror movie.”

“Yesterday’s attack in Bulgaria was perpetrated by Hezbollah, Iran’s leading terrorist proxy,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “We will continue to fight against Iranian terror. It will not defeat us. We will act against it with great force.”

Israel however indicated it would not hasten into any open conflict with Iran or Hezbollah.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would “do everything possible in order to find those responsible, and those who dispatched them, and punish them” – language that appeared to suggest covert action against individuals.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev linked the arrest of a foreigner in Cyprus this month on suspicion of plotting an attack on Israeli tourists there with the Bulgaria bombing.

“The suspect who was arrested in Cyprus, in his interrogation, revealed an operational plan that is almost identical to what happened in Bulgaria. He is from Hezbollah … this is a further indication of Hezbollah and Iran’s direct responsibility,” he told Reuters.

“BASELESS ACCUSATIONS”

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman dismissed Israel’s “baseless accusations” that Tehran was involved in the bombing.

The blast occurred on the 18th anniversary of a bomb attack on Argentina’s main Jewish organization that killed 85 people. Argentina blamed Iran, which denied responsibility.

Medical officials said two badly injured Israeli tourists were taken to hospitals in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia. One woman was in intensive care with head and chest injuries and a man was in a critical state with burns covering 55 percent of his body.

About 70 Israeli tourists, including those lightly injured by the blast, left Burgas on a Bulgarian government airplane to Israel, the interior ministry said.

The European Commission and NATO condemned the attack, joining criticism from the United States, Britain, France and Germany, and the mayor of Burgas announced a day of mourning.

Israeli officials had previously said that Bulgaria, a popular destination for Israeli tourists, was vulnerable to attack by Islamist militants, who could infiltrate via Turkey.

Israeli diplomats have been targeted in several countries in recent months by bombers who Israel said struck on behalf of Iran.

Some analysts believe Iran is trying to avenge the assassinations of several scientists from its nuclear program, which Israel and Western powers fear is aimed at developing a nuclear bomb.

Iran insists its uranium enrichment work is strictly for peaceful ends. Both Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Additional reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia, Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Writing by Sam Cage; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Giles Elgood

Deadly Bulgaria attack survivors recall chaos, tragedy

Vered Kuza was standing with her daughter, Amit, on an airport shuttle bus at Sarafovo International Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, when she suddenly heard a blast.

“It’s an attack!” Kuza, 54, shouted at Amit, 26. “We need to get out of here!”

She pushed her daughter through the door just as the bus exploded. Kuza was knocked unconscious. Her daughter landed on the ground, debris ripping into her left shoulder, through her chest and down to her liver.

When Vered Kuza regained consciousness, her feet “were swollen to a ridiculous size.” Her daughter was nowhere to be seen.

“Everything was broken,” Kuza told JTA, lying in a hospital bed in a Tel Aviv emergency room on Thursday, her feet wrapped in gauze and plastic and a red No. 2 scrawled on her forehead. “There were body parts around me. I didn’t know what was happening. It was smoking, hellish. It was horrifying.”

Five Israelis died in the attack that Kuza survived. According to Israeli reports, the five deceased are Amir Menashe, 27; Itzik Kolengi, 27; childhood friends Maor Harush, 26, and Elior Priess, 26; and Kochava Shriki, 44. In addition, the bus driver and suicide bomber died in the attack.

Ynet News reported that minutes before the attack, Shriki called her sister and told her that she was pregnant for the first time. Shriki’s husband, Yitzhak, survived and spent hours searching for his wife.

After the bomb exploded, “I walked toward the exit and called to my wife, ‘Come toward the door!’” he told Ynet. “After a few seconds I realized she wasn’t with me. The fog was thick like sand, and I went to look for her but it was impossible to get through.”

Kuza was one of 33 Israelis injured in the attack to be flown back to Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday afternoon and sent to hospitals throughout the country, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Her daughter was one of three Israelis who were too seriously injured to make the trip and remained hospitalized in Bulgaria.

The head of the IDF Medical Corps, Itzik Kreis, said that the injured passengers who arrived in Israel “got very good medical care in Bulgaria” and “were less seriously hurt than we expected.”

The IDF Medical Corps landed in Bulgaria on Wednesday night to tend to the victims and bring them back to Israel. Kreis said that the injuries the corps saw were similar to those suffered by bus bombing victims in Israel.

A plane carrying 70 Israeli tourists in Bulgaria scheduled to fly home on Wednesday night was delayed, but arrived on Thursday.

Seven people died in the attack, which occurred Wednesday at about 5 p.m. The dead included five Israelis, the bus driver and the suicide bomber. Names of those killed were scheduled to be announced on Thursday night after their bodies arrived in Israel.

An airport security camera at the Sarafovo airport in Burgas revealed that the bomber was a Caucasian man with long hair and a backpack who had been wandering around the area for about an hour. He reportedly was carrying a fake Michigan driver’s license.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly accused Iran of sponsoring the attack. In a statement on Thursday, Netanyahu called on “the world’s leading powers” to recognize “that Iran is the country that stands behind this terror campaign.  Iran must be exposed by the international community as the premiere terrorist-supporting state that it is.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he had information that the attack was the joint work of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Iran has denied the allegations.

Soon after the attack, Amit Kuza was taken by paramedics to a hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. Her mother “sat on the side of the road,” unattended for two hours because she was deemed to be in stable condition, she said.

“I had no one to talk to,” Vered Kuza said. “I didn’t even have a glass of water. They don’t know English. It was primitive.”

Bulgarian officials told Kuza that her daughter was in Sofia and in a stable condition. But Kuza was not able to speak to her daughter until Thursday morning. Amit and the two others who had remained in Bulgaria were scheduled to arrive in Israel on Thursday evening.

When news of the attack reached Israel, Arik Kuza, Vered’s husband, called the Foreign Ministry to find out if his wife and daughter were alive.

“I called 50 times,” he said, standing at Vered’s bedside. “They put me on hold and I heard music. I waited for hours.”

Lying in her hospital bed, she spoke in a calm and even tone. With her daughter scheduled to arrive in a few hours, she said she felt lucky to be alive.

Obama backs moment of silence at Olympics

President Obama has joined the campaign for a moment of silence at the upcoming London Olympics to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Palestinian terrorists murdering Israeli athletes at the Munich games.

“We absolutely support the campaign for a minute of silence at the Olympics to honor the Israeli athletes killed in Munich,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told Yahoo News in an email.

The families of the victims of the 1972 massacre, the State of Israel and Jewish communities have consistently requested a moment of silence in subsequent Olympics. Other than the day after the murders themselves, the Olympics have never granted an official moment of silence. Olympic officials point out that they have sent representatives to host-city Jewish community commemorations.

Obama joins the U.S. Senate, the German Bundestag, the Canadian and Australian parliaments, about 50 members of the British Parliament and about 100 members of Australia’s Parliament in the call.

A spokeswoman for Mitt Romney, Andrea Saul, said the Republican standard-bearer had taken no public stance on the issue, according to Yahoo News.

Israel names five victims of Bulgaria terror attack

The names of the five Israelis killed in a suicide bombing in Bulgaria were released Thursday, after Israeli authorities had confirmed their identification and informed the families.

The names of those killed are Maor Harush, 24, and Elior Price, 25, from Acre; Itzik Kolangi, 28, and Amir Menashe, 28, from Petah Tikva; Kochava Shriki, 42, from Rishon Letzion. The sixth victim was the Bulgarian bus driver, Mustafa Kyosov, 36.

Friends and relatives visiting the families of Harush and Price in Acre said that the two were “friends in their life and in their death.” On Wednesday, the two boarded the flight along with another friend, Daniel Fahima, who was seriously wounded in the attack. The three were planning on taking a six-day vacation and were expected to return to Israel next week on Monday.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Strangers to hate crimes, Bulgarian Jews reeling from Burgas bombing

Until this week, leaders of Bulgaria’s small, generally placid Jewish community said felt untouched by hate crimes or terrorism.

But after Wednesday’s apparent suicide bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists in the Black Sea city of Borgas, Jews in the country are speaking of a basic change in their sense of security.

“We used to convene without a shred of fear in the Jewish community’s buildings,” said Kamen Petrov, vice president of Maccabi Bulgaria. “I guess we had been unprepared. Things will have to change from now on. We thought something like this could not happen in Bulgaria.”

Wednesday’s explosion outside Sarafovo Airport in Burgas killed six Israeli tourists, a Bulgarian bus driver and the suspected suicide bomber. More than 30 Israelis were injured. The Israelis had just arrived on a charter flight from Israel.

Maxim Benvenisti, president of the Organization of Jews in Bulgaria, said that three years ago the community had drafted emergency plans to respond to potential terror attacks.
“We discussed such scenarios. But we see that it’s one thing to discuss them, and it’s another to see the scenario happening before your eyes,” he told JTA. Bevenisti said security measures will now be tightened. “The situation needs to be improved,” he said.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev said Wednesday that at a meeting a month ago, with representatives of the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service did not warn Bulgarian officials of the possibility of a terrorist attack.

Bulgaria’s Jewish community had increased its security arrangements in February, following warnings from the local Israeli Embassy, according to Martin Levi, vice chairman of the Jewish community in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. Among other measures, security at the entrances to the community building in Sofia and other Jewish institutions were tightened. Bulgarian authorities had been made aware of the warnings, he said.

That came in the wake of the discovery by Bulgarian authorities of a bomb on a charter bus for Israelis that was heading to a Bulgarian ski resort from the Turkish border.

“We took the alerts seriously and upped security, but the Bulgarian authorities were dismissive,” Levi said. “Some argued Bulgaria was immune because it had such excellent relations and cultural attachment to Muslim populations. I am deeply disappointed in how the authorities handled this.”

He learned of the attack while in Hungary, where he is helping instructors run a summer camp for some 260 Jewish children from the Balkans. Next week, a summer camp for Bulgarian Jewish children will open in Bulgaria.

The camp has taken additional precautions as well, he said, without offering details.

“We want to beef up security without causing panic,” Levi said. “We try to tell the children as little as possible about the attack and continue with our program. We don’t want this to become ‘the summer camp of the terrorist attack.’”

The flow of Israeli tourists into Bulgaria picked up in 2009, following the deterioration in Israel’s relation’s with Turkey. Bulgaria’s minister of tourism was quoted as saying that nearly 150,000 Israelis were expected to visit Bulgaria this year. Some 20 percent of standing reservations from Israel have been canceled since the attack.

Tania Reytan, a sociologist at the University of Sofia who is Jewish and promotes interfaith dialogue, said she has limited faith in the effectiveness of additional security measures in the long run.

“The biggest security gap is in the extremist’s mind,” she said. “We need to reach out more to the other communities and explain who we are and what our values are.”

Though Bulgaria has a pro-Israel foreign policy, she said, “Israel is always mentioned in a negative context in Bulgaria.” The terrorists picked Bulgaria, she said, “because they sought for the weakest link in the European Union, and they found it.”

Some observers are worried that the attack could have negative repercussions for the generally positive relations between Bulgarians Jews and Muslims. Approximately 8 percent of Bulgaria’s 7 million people are Muslim, the vast majority of them ethnic Turks.

Bulgaria has an estimated 3,500 to 5,700 Jews.

Relations between Jews and Muslims in Bulgaria have historically been “peaceful and friendly,” said Benvenisti, president of the Organization of Jews in Bulgaria.

On Thursday, Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said the bomber was believed to have been about 36 years old and had been in the country between four and seven days. “We cannot exclude the possibility that he had logistical support on Bulgarian territory,” the minister said. He declined to elaborate.

Nitzan Nuriel, former head of Israeli Counter-Terrorism Bureau, speculated that the suicide bomber might have been homegrown – either recruited locally or having crossed over from Turkey.

Representatives of Bulgaria’s Muslim community issued strong condemnations of the attack, as did representatives of various other ethnic and religious groups and associations.

“We refuse to believe that the bomber is a Bulgarian Muslim. We don’t believe that any of them could undertake such action,” said Ahmed Ahmedov, spokesman for the chief Bulgarian mufti.

Mufti Mustafa Alsih Hadzhi, in an official statement to the Bulgarian media, denounced Wednesday’s attack as a “barbarian act” and expressed condolences with the families of the victims. Ahmedov said that the attack should not be interpreted as a religious act, but as some kind of “economic provocation” aimed at crippling the local tourist business.
Despite the attack, some Israelis seem undeterred from coming to Bulgaria.

Rabbi Yossi Halperin of Varna – a city situated about 50 miles north of Burgas and where flights to and from Burgas were rerouted after the attack – said he found “a good number of recent arrivals” from Israel when he went to Varna’s airport “to help people through all the confusion.”

Svetlana Guineva reported for this story from Sofia, Bulgaria; Cnaan Liphshiz reported from The Hague, and Dianna Cahn contributed to this report from Belgrade, Serbia.

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:

  • Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, jewishla.org/Bulgaria.
  • Jewish Agency for Israel donate.jewishagency.org/page/contribute.
  • The Orthodox Union’s (OU)  ou.org/terrorfund

Authors return to scene of Israeli espionage

We think we have some important stories to tell, and thus we returned to the subject of Israeli espionage. Our first effort in that field was a book in 1990 titled “Every Spy a Prince.” Twenty-two years later, we spoke with more people and got more stories — about recent events, but also new details about important operations going back to the beginnings of the Jewish state in 1948.

We are not surprised that the news media put their focus on our description of Israel’s covert activities aimed at stopping — or at least slowing — Iran’s nuclear program. Many of those were accurate, if brief, summaries of what we reported: notably, a news article by the Associated Press on July 8.

We had mixed feelings, therefore, when The New York Times gave our book significant attention on July 11. The headline atop a full column on Page A8 said: “Tehran Abuzz as Book Says Israel Killed 5 Scientists.”

Several of our friends said there is no such thing as bad publicity when one has written a book and it is just out, and the project thrives or languishes depending on how much attention it can get.  

Yet the wording of the Times article would lead newspaper readers to think we were accusing Jews in Iran — where approximately 25,000 still reside — of participating in secret Mossad missions, including assassinations.

The article says that our book contains the “assertion” that five scientists were killed in Iran “by operatives, most likely of Persian Jewish heritage, employed by Mossad …”

We do not want to attack the reporter, who had contacted us with only two questions this week: Could he rapidly have a free, review copy, to help the Times Foreign Desk possibly write an article that might mention “Spies Against Armageddon”? And did we or our publisher have any plan to translate the book into Farsi, the language of Iran?

We feel, however, that while the main thrust of his article turned out to be reporting what the news media in Iran are saying about our book, he himself distorted what we wrote. We are not suggesting that it was intentional, but there were some exaggerations and too much certainty — whereas we were cautious in suggesting what might be true about covert Mossad operations in Iran.

In a carefully worded passage on Page 14 — in our first chapter, “Stopping Iran” — our book says: “The Mossad also had a human treasury: Tens of thousands of ex-Iranians now lived in Israel. Iranian Jews had fled, especially just after the 1979 revolution, and many of their children also were well acquainted with the Persian language and customs. Individuals who were brave enough — and then selected and trained by the Mossad — could move back to Iran and secretly serve Israel.

“Israeli operatives inside Iran were available for all kinds of espionage and even, if and when the time came, for pinpointing targets for air strikes.”

We were not reporting that the assassins in 2007-2012 were Persian Jews returning to their homeland. We said that the Mossad “could” call upon the repository of ex-Iranians as well as other Israelis in the secret agency.

The Times article also mentioned “the book’s assertion that the assassins were all Mossad agents who used agency safe houses maintained inside Iran since the era of the shah.”

Again, we carefully report in our book that the Mossad has had safe houses in Iran since pre-1979 days, but we don’t report that all the assassins stayed in such houses.

The key paragraph on Page 13 of our book speaks of “possibilities.” We do not claim to know or to reveal how the assassins traveled or where they stayed:

“Naturally, no one in Tel Aviv was talking about any operational details of how Israelis entered and left Iran — or where they stayed while inside the Islamic Republic.

“There were many possibilities. Obviously, Israeli operatives traveled using the passports of other countries, including both bogus and genuine documents. That fact had been inadvertently revealed several times, over many years. In addition, the Mossad continuously maintained safe houses in Iran, dating back to the pre-1979 years under the Shah. That was an investment in the future, typical for Israeli intelligence.”

The Times article then caused some discomfort to some Persian Jews in the United States — and we heard from some — when it stated that our book contains “assertions about the assassins’ nationalities or religious beliefs …” We never discuss their religious beliefs. Yes, their nationality is Israeli. We do report that, and we explain that against the background of Mossad operations that penetrated enemy countries in decades past.

Our book treads carefully on some very sensitive territory, but we would like to think that we got the balance right. It is the historian’s job to tell readers what happened and to set it in context — and as historians of the espionage world, we further endeavor not to endanger anyone by revealing too many details.

Let us be clear, and we have written about this elsewhere and will continue to do so: Israel’s Mossad does not use local Jews as agents, saboteurs or assassins. Bitter lessons were learned more than half a century ago in Egypt, Iraq and other countries, where early operations by Israeli intelligence sometimes did use local Jews— and, if caught, the individuals were hanged, and their entire communities suffered official retribution from the Arab regime.

The use of Jonathan Pollard, an American with a high-level security clearance in U.S. naval intelligence, as a spy for Israel was an aberration. The Mossad would not have hired him. It was a separate agency, Lakam (the Science Liaison Bureau), that ran Pollard — who is now serving a life sentence for an operation that most Israeli officials and intelligence professionals believe was a mistake.  

The Mossad, we believe, would have known not to put the important American Jewish community in peril — not the least, American Jews working in U.S. defense and intelligence jobs — by employing Pollard.

To read the Associated Press and New York Times articles mentioned above, visit:


Dan Raviv, a CBS News correspondent based in Washington, and veteran Israeli intelligence reporter and commentator Yossi Melman are co-authors of the new “Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars.” They also wrote the best seller “Every Spy a Prince.” They blog at IsraelSpy.com.