El Al planes at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, March 16, 2018. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
El Al on Friday cancelled a flight to San Francisco and several others to a number of European cities amid a global drop in travel over fears about the new coronavirus, with a senior company official calling it “an unprecedented crisis.”
Flights that left for San Francisco Friday morning were combined, according to El Al, due to the low number of passengers on each plane.
In Europe, the Israeli airline was cancelling some flights to Berlin, Barcelona and Zurich. All three cities are located in countries which Israel began restricting the entry of non-nationals to on Friday as part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
“This is an unprecedented crisis,” a senior El Al official told the Ynet news site.
“The consequences of this crisis are huge and we are trying to do everything we can [to handle it],” he said.
El Al was also expected to cancel flights on Sunday to Munich, Budapest, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bucharest, Vienna and Marseille.
The official at the airline told the website that El Al was working to combine flights and use smaller planes.
Empty departure halls at Ben Gurion Airport. on March 4, 2020. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
On Wednesday, El Al fired some 600 permanent workers as it grapples with ongoing financial losses caused by the virus outbreak.
Other employees in high paying roles are likely to have their salaries cut.
The airline also axed hundreds of temporary workers, who are employed by the company for under five years. The fired staff include air crews, flight attendants, ground crews and others.
The company appears to be one of the hardest hit in Israel by the virus. On Wednesday, the Bank of Israel said the country’s economy was weathering the crisis, but was ready to step in to help if necessary.
On Tuesday El Al cut salaries of its senior staff by 20 percent. The salary reduction includes the company’s board of directors and chairman, and retroactively takes effect from March 1, Channel 12 reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the head of the union, Sharon Ben Itzhak, that he had assigned a ministerial committee to help El Al and other Israeli airlines.
Besides cutting back flights, El Al has also suspended flights to Italy and Thailand and and said it would delay its planned launch of direct flights to Tokyo until April. The airline extended its halt of flights to Beijing and Hong Kong until May.
A pilgrim wearing a protective mask visis the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City in Jerusalem on February 27, 2020. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
Despite the damage to the aviation industry, the Tourism Ministry said Wednesday that the usual number of tourists entered Israel in February, with some 344,000 arrivals and an estimated tourist revenue of $486 million.
Israel has thus far taken far-reaching measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, forcing thousands of Israelis into self-quarantine, barring foreigners from countries hit hard by the virus, banning large gatherings, and advising against personal contact and travel abroad.
It was the first country to urge its citizens to refrain from international travel entirely because of the outbreak, which started in China in December and has since infected over 100,000 in about 85 nations and claimed nearly 3,400 lives, almost all of them in China.
There have been 19 confirmed cases of the virus in Israel and no deaths.
Luke Tress contributed to this report.
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7 Places You Didn’t Know Were UNESCO World Heritage Sites
From national parks and natural wonders to ancient cities and historic buildings, World Heritage Sites are selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for being significant places.
As of December 2018, there are 1,092 World Heritage Sites, recognized for their cultural, historical, scientific or natural standing. Italy, China and Spain have the most sites on the list with 54, 53 and 47, respectively.
While every travel destination has some degree of importance, World Heritage Sites are legally protected, promoting their conservation.
Here are 7 places you may not have known were UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The capital city of Ecuador, Quito, was one of the first places marked as a World Heritage Site in 1978, mainly due to its pristine historic center, which UNESCO calls the “best-preserved, least altered” in all of Latin America. The integrity of the city’s original configuration is noted as one of its reasons for being included.
Ancient City of Damascus
One of seven Syrian sites on the list that are in danger due to conflict in the region is the Ancient City of Damascus. Founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., it’s one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. It has around 125 monuments from different periods of its history, including the famous 8th century Great Mosque of the Umayyads, which has thus far survived the Syrian Civil War.
Everglades National Park
Also on the World Heritage Sites “in danger” list is South Florida’s Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Home to rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile and Florida panther, the Everglades itself is threatened by the “serious and continuing degradation of its aquatic ecosystem,” UNESCO announced when it re-added the park to the list in 2010.
Today’s Trivia Question
What country is home to the world’s smallest floral kingdom?
Rock Drawings in Val Camonica
Located in northern Italy, Val Camonica has one of the world’s greatest collections of prehistoric petroglyphs. There are more than 140,000 symbols and figures carved in the rock over a period of 8,000 years. The valley, located in the Lombardy region, has petroglyphs throughout that depict themes linked with agriculture, duels and deer hunting.
Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal
The Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal, Mexico was founded in the year 700 by roughly 25,000 inhabitants. It was selected as a UNESCO site in 1996 because of the layout of its buildings, dated from 700 to 1000, which reveal a knowledge of astronomy. The Pyramid of the Magician — known to the Spaniards as the Pyramid of the Soothsayer — is at the city’s ceremonial center. It is among the high points of Mayan art and architecture.
The Grand Canal
Running from Beijing in the north to the Zhejiang province to the south, the Grand Canal was added as a World Heritage Site in 2014. Construction on the vast Chinese waterway system began in the 5th century B.C. By the 13th century, it consisted of more than 2,000 kilometers of artificial waterways that link five of China’s main river basins.
Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona
Cities All Architecture Lovers Need to Visit Before They Die
From towering skyscrapers to the ancient Colosseum, the world is filled with architectural marvels. And since architecture is best enjoyed in person, here are 10 cities that architecture lovers simply must visit.
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Credit: Semmick Photo/Shutterstock
It’s called the “City of Big Shoulders” for a reason. Chicago is home to some of the oldest skyscrapers, such as the Manhattan Building, built in 1891; the Reliance Building, built in 1895; and Chicago Savings Bank Building, completed in 1905. Most of Downtown Chicago was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871, but the iconic Chicago Water Tower, built in 1869, was left standing. Built solely of yellow Lemont limestone, seeing the 182-foot tower firsthand should be on every architecture lovers bucket list.
Rome is home to some of the world’s most photographed structures, including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Trajan’s Market. Had it not been for the Romans, designs like the arch and the dome would never have come to be. Rome’s classical structures are a must see. That’s a given. But the city’s Baroque style buildings, which were mostly constructed during the 17th century, are also well worth your time. The sheer grandness of structures like St. Peter’s Basilicaand the Trevi Fountain can’t be captured in a photograph. Few things in life will leave you as awestruck as taking a stroll inside St. Peter’s, with its massive dome, and looking up. You may never want to look down again.
Influenced by the legendary 19th century Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona’s architecture, much like the city itself, is imaginative and colorful. One sight that’s a must see is Gaudi’s Casa Batllo. The façade of the building is constructed of broken ceramic tiles, thus creating an eye-popping mosaic that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Other structures that are inspired by Gaudi’s vivid imagination include Jean Nouvel’s Tower, which is designed to resemble a geyser of water shooting through the air, and Frank Gehry’s Fish.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Credit: Rastislav Sedlak SK/Shutterstock
In addition to being home to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai skyline is filled with twisty-turny steel buildings. If you find yourself wandering in this desert city, be sure to check out the Burj al Arab, which is designed to look like an Arabian dhow ship, as well as the curving Cayan, with its seemingly impossible 90-degree twist. There’s also the famed underwater zoo located in the Dubai Mall, which features 300 different species of aquatic life, including all types of fish, sting rays and sharks.
Credit: Sven Hansche/Shutterstock
Fueled by government investment, Shanghai has grown rapidly in recent years. It’s almost as if a glossy new structure pops up each month. The architecture in Shanghai is modernistic, and best represented in buildings like the Hongkou Soho office building, with its pleated exterior. Shanghai is also home to the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower, which features a twisted, glass façade that stretches upward for 2,073 feet.
Credit: Catarina Belova/Shutterstock
The birthplace of Art Deco and Gothic architecture, Paris is a city whose rich architectural history stretches back centuries. Gothic style, which is marked by colorful stained glass windows and flying buttresses, can be seen in a number of Paris cathedrals, including the Sainte-Chapelle, the St-Gervais-et-St-Protais and, most famously, Notre-Dame, which was in the news earlier this year after sustaining serious damage during a 15-hour fire. Paris’s famed Art Deco buildings, with their notable exteriors that feature numerous horizontal lines, began popping up shortly before World War I and were dominant in the ’20s and ’30s. Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and the Grand Rex movie palace are two prominent structures that exhibit this style. This is a small sample of the numerous architectural wonders in the City of Light.
The Russian capital is home to some of the most recognizable architecture in the world with a style known simply as Russian architecture. Arguably the most renown structure in the Russian style is Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral. Constructed in the 16th century during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the cathedral is known for its vibrant, onion-shaped domes. Moscow is also home to more recent architectural wonders like the Ostankino Tower, which was completed in 1967 and was for a period of time the tallest building in the world, and a group of Moscow skyscrapers known as the Seven Sisters. The seven buildings, which were built during the reign of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, are wide and blocky, and scattered throughout Moscow. They were constructed in the Stalinist style of Russian architecture, which borrows elements of the Russian baroque.
Several ancient monuments from Athens’s classical era are still standing, most notably the Parthenon, with its enormous stone columns. There is also the Theatre of Dionysus, which was the birthplace of Greek tragedy and the first theater ever constructed. And what would a historically rich city like Athens be without its ancient temples? During its heyday, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was completed around the 2nd century, had an unthinkable 104 columns, although only a few remain standing today.
Credit: LALS STOCK/Shutterstock
The most populous city in Turkey is known for two distinct styles of architecture: Byzantine and Ottoman. The Hagia Sophia, which was constructed in the 6th century, is a church that is emblematic of the Byzantine style, with its massive dome and elegiac mosaics depicting Christ and other biblical figures. The Ottoman style of architecture also flourished in Istanbul. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries a number of imperial mosques were constructed throughout the city, including Faith Mosque, Yeni Mosque\ and Bayezid Mosque. The mosques all have the key features of the Ottoman style, with extensive use of domes and columns, and are an absolute marvel to experience in person.
New York City, New York, U.S.A.
From the Art Deco masterpiece that is the Chrysler Building (1930), to the Gothic Revival design of the Woolworth Building (1913), to the more recent green design of the Conde Nast Building, New York City’s skyscrapers employ a wide range of stylistic elements. The character of the city can also be seen in the architectural designs used in its residential neighborhoods. From the brownstones in Brooklyn to the tenements on the Lower East Side, New York’s five boroughs are an architectural cornucopia whose styles are as diverse as the city itself.
Written by Travel Trivia Editorial
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Of all the artistic works we humans have come up with over the years, our architectural achievements may be the most powerful. Great architecture combines form and function; it serves a purpose while acting as a symbol of the culture that created it. Much of our understanding of ancient cultures comes from the architecture they left behind, making it a crucial part of world history and our understanding of civilization as a whole.
If you get a chance, pay a visit to a few of these jaw-dropping masterpieces to get a full idea of how powerful architecture can be.
Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), Chiang Rai, Thailand
Created in 1997 by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the White Temple is one of the newest architectural wonders on this list, though it certainly deserves its place. A sparkling wonder of white plaster and glass, the White Temple is an artistic expression that combines traditional Thai beliefs with modern culture.
Though the exterior of the temple was designed in the Buddhist fashion common in Thai temples, the interior contains an expansive series of pop culture imagery, including depictions of Spider-Man, The Terminator, Michael Jackson, and more. Yes, really. And while photos of the inside of the temple are prohibited by Thai law, seeing the exterior alone should be enough to give you an idea of the grandeur of this bizarre project.
Great Wall of China
Yes, China’s Great Wall certainly makes our list. And while it’s not the easiest architectural wonder for Americans to reach, it’s worth the trip. Sections of the 13,000+ mile wall were built as far back as the 7th century BCE, with new additions and revisions made over the next several thousand years.
There’s not much else to say about this one, because you already know it! The Great Wall of China is one of the most enduring works out there, with historians agreeing that it’s one of the most impressive architectural feats in human history.
This isn’t your grandma’s mosque; rather than the plain grays and slates typical of religious buildings, the Pink Mosque features a kaleidoscope of color, with pink floor tiles, rainbow stained glass, and painted geometric patterns adorning every interior wall. The outside is similarly impressive, but for this one, you really need to go inside to see its most impressive elements.
Colosseum, Rome, Italy
Another architectural favorite, the Colosseum is one of those ancient works that always seems to capture our imaginations. Completed around 80 AD, modern scholars believe that the Colosseum represents the brutality of Imperial Rome, noting its dark history of public executions, gladiator matches, and violent chariot races.
Despite its brutal history, it’s hard to ignore the Colosseum’s beauty as an architectural achievement. Reported to hold anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 spectators in its prime, it dwarfs many modern arenas and serves as a constant (and fragmented) reminder of a lost world.
If you ever find yourself in Greece, stop by the island of Santorini. One of many islands on the Aegean Sea, Santorini doesn’t feature one specific architectural achievement. Instead, the whole island can be considered an architectural achievement, acting as a modern representation of ancient Cycladic architecture.
On the island, you’ll see a series of white painted villages dotting red island cliffs, with residents adorning their homes in bright yellow, cyan, and red. Combined with the lush greenery of the region and its proximity to the deep blue Aegean, the whole island bursts forth in vivid colors and unique cliffside architecture unlike any you’ll see in the world.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA
The Golden Gate Bridge is a masterpiece of engineering if we’ve ever seen one. The bridge’s impressive length of 1.7 miles is matched by its height, standing a cool 220 feet above the waters of the Golden Gate Strait. Designed primarily by Charles Alton Ellis, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most enduring modern architectural works in the United States, even being named one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
One of the most visually striking buildings on this list, the Sagrada Familia basilica is an unfinished Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1852. However, despite Gaudi devoting his life to the building’s creation, he would die with less than a quarter of the project complete. And while a current team of architects is working to finish what Gaudi started, the fact that the church is unfinished is a selling point to many of the basilica’s 2.5 million annual visitors. With a surprisingly modern design approach that blends traditional church architecture with Gothic elements, this one is worth a visit—finished or not.
Monuments to Culture
From China to Italy to right here in the U.S., our architectural monuments are more than just buildings. They’re tributes to our culture. If you ever get a chance to scope out one of these engineering marvels, we suggest you take it. These wonders won’t be around forever, and when they go, they’ll take huge chunks of history with them.
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3 Amazing Spanish Buildings You Need to See in Person
Mention Spanish architecture and the name Antoni Gaudí immediately springs to mind. He was responsible for iconic landmarks such as the incomplete La Sagrada Familia and colorful Park Güell. But from Santiago Calatrava to Jose Rafael Moneo, Spain was, and still is, the birthplace of many great architects. Since the Roman era people have been carving a spectacular architectural landscape the length and breadth of the country. They’ve been influenced by the Romanesque, Gothic, Mudéjar, and Baroque styles, among many artistic movements such as Catalan modernism and surrealism. The following three buildings have to been seen in person to fully appreciate them.
Casa Botines, León
While Gaudí spent most of his working life decorating Catalunya, he did venture outside of the region on three occasions. In the heart of the city of León is his Neo-Gothic masterpiece called Casa Botines. For this mixed business and residential building, Gaudí wanted to honor the architectonic composition of the city and thus spent time studying the local cathedral, churches, and palaces. Work began in 1891 and it took just 10 months to complete. The beautiful exposed-stone building features an inclined roof and towers situated on all corners, which enhance the Gothic effect. It has 365 windows, one to represent each day of the year, and a statue of St. George slaying the dragon stands above the main entrance.
Museum exhibits spread throughout the floors of Casa Botines and showcase everything from the life of Gaudí to the history of the building and centuries-old art. See works by Ramon Casas i Carbó, Joaquín Sorolla, José Navarro Llorens and other Spanish painters.
City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias is the late-20th century creation of Santiago Calatrava set around a man-made lake in the Turia Gardens. Described as a city within a city, it’s a collection of futuristic buildings that were used as an inspiration for Disney’s fantasy movie Tomorrowland. At the head of the complex is the Palau de les Artes Reina Sofia opera house, where panoramic elevators and stairways travel to platforms at varying heights. The L’Hemisfèric represents a giant eyeball that reflects in the pool and houses an IMAX theater and planetarium. Note the similarities between the structure of the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum and a whale skeleton. Running along the west side of the complex, the L’Umbracle features a sculpture park and landscaped gardens beneath modern arches.
If you fancy some energetic fun then rent a water bike to cruise across the lake and around the exterior of the buildings.
Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Barcelona
There’s no shortage of fascinating churches in Barcelona, and Spain for that matter, and this one atop Mount Tibidabo is among the city’s finest. Often known simply as the Temple of Tibidabo, the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor dates back to 1902, although wasn’t finished until 1961. Barcelona local Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia designed the church and his son, Josep Maria Sagnier i Vidal, completed it. A Neo-Gothic church rises up from a Romanesque fortress-like platform and evokes reminders of Paris’s Sacré-Cœur basilica. Statues of the 12 Apostles stand on the towers that mark the church’s four corners and a bronze Jesus lords over the entire building. At the lower level, an allegory with the patron saints of Spain decorates an arched entrance. Inside, stained-glass windows portray Marian devotions, saints and scenes from the life of Jesus. Take the lift to the rooftop for splendid views over the city and Parc Natural de la Serra de Collserola.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BRAZIL 247 NEWS AGENCY)
((OPINION OF OLDPOET56) BRAZIL IS SOON TO BE UNDER THE DICTATORSHIP OF AN ILLEGITIMATE PRESIDENT, JAIR BOLSONARO, MAYBE HIS ‘NICKNAME’ SHOULD BE JAIL, NOT JAIR’ AS IN “JAIL BOLSONARO”, SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT TO ME.)
CITY COUNCIL OF BARCELONA REPUDIATES SPEECH OF BOLSONARO AND DEFENDS LULA’S RELEASE
On November 14, the City of Barcelona released an institutional statement condemning the hate speech and violence of Jair Bolsonaro, president-elect in Brazil; the note repudiates the machista, racist and authoritarian attitudes of Bolsonaro and demands the protection and the strict compliance of the rights foreseen in the Constitution of 1988; in addition, it defends the sending of an international observer mission to evaluate the independence of the Brazilian Judiciary and the release of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
South 21 –On 14 November, the City of Barcelona published an institutional statement condemning the hate speech and violence of Jair Bolsonaro, president-elect in Brazil. The note repudiates the macho, racist and authoritarian attitudes of Bolsonaro and demands the protection and strict compliance of the rights provided for in the 1988 Constitution. In addition, it expresses the support of the city of Barcelona to all the citizens of Brazil who are mobilized against this discourse of hatred. The authorities of the city of Barcelona also expressed “deep concern about the appointment of Judge Sérgio Moro as Minister of Justice, defends the sending of an international observer mission to assess the independence of the Brazilian judiciary and the release of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva , according to habeas corpus granted by Judge Rogério Favretto, of the Federal Regional Court of 4a. Region, of Porto Alegre.
The declaration, approved by the Plenary (maximum authority of the Municipality), also repudiates the ideas of the Movement Without Party, the criminalization of social movements and demands the protection of the rights of the native and quilombola peoples. In a video, the deputy mayor of Barcelona, Gerardo Pisarello, expresses concern about Bolsonaro’s triumph in Brazil, as well as Trump’s triumph in the United States and the rise of the far right across Europe. About Bolsonaro, he says:
“His outrageously authoritarian, homophobic, classist, macho and racist talk will not shut us down. We have not forgotten the murder of Marielle Franco and the social movements that have been fighting for freedom and dignity in Brazil for years. For this reason, the City of Barcelona has approved an institutional declaration condemning the hate speech of the president-elect of Brazil and is committed to the defense of human rights in this brother country and demands the immediate release of former President Lula, sentenced in a marked case by enormous irregularities. “
The statement from the City of Barcelona also sends a message to all the activists, academics and members of social, popular and union movements in Brazil who are being persecuted in Brazil for fighting the extreme right: “you are not alone, Barcelona is yours. side. One must say loud and strong: no one lets go of anyone’s hand. We send a very strong hug from Barcelona, with Brazil always in the head and in the heart. “
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People gather to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic at the Sant Jaume square in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont casts his vote for a motion on declaring independence from Spain, during a session of the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE)
People gather in front of the ‘Generalitat’ palace (Catalan government headquarters) at the Sant Jaume square to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic in Barcelona on October 27, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gives a press conference after a cabinet meeting at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid, on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO)
People gather in front of the ‘Generalitat’ palace (Catalan government headquarters) at the Sant Jaume square to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (Lluis Gene/AFP)
People celebrate after Catalonia’s parliament voted to declare independence from Spain on October 27, 2017 in Barcelona. ( AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU)
People celebrate after Catalonia’s parliament voted to declare independence from Spain in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (Pau Barrena/AFP)
Breaking with its policy of neutrality on Catalan independence, the main umbrella group of Spanish Jews on Friday blamed separatists for the kingdom’s crisis and declared allegiance to the constitution.
The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, or FCJE, did this in a statement released hours after Catalan lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain, as Madrid vowed in turn to “restore legality” and quash the region’s secessionist bid.
Expressing “deep concern over the grave national crisis,” the statement by the federation went on to state this crisis was “caused by the unilateral declaration of independence” of the regional government of Catalonia through its parliament.
”As Spanish Jews we wholly support the Spanish Constitution, the rule of law as applied in accordance with the law, solidarity and equality between all Spanish people and the unity of Spain,” read the statement. Authorities will “restore normalcy in Catalonia,” continued the anti-secessionist statement, “and throughout all of Spain, and that, finally, fraternity and peaceful coexistence as Spanish citizens.”
The Madrid-based federation’s statement notwithstanding, the Jews of Catalonia, who, according to the European Jewish Congress make up a third of Spain total Jewish population of 45,000, are deeply divided on the issue of independence, according to Victor Sorenssen, the leader of the Jewish community of Barcelona, which is the capital of Catalonia.
Barcelona Jewish Community Spokesperson Victor Sorrenssen ( Screen Capture/ YouTube)
“This is a political matter that doesn’t directly concern Judaism, so the community has no position on it as such,” Sorenssen said earlier this month of the organization representing Barcelona’s Jews.
Jews of Catalonia, an anti-secessionist group, on Friday lauded the Madrid-based federation for its “important” message, as they called it on Twitter.
“The only representative organ of Jews in all of Spain has some out in favor of unity and against separatism,” the tweet read. “Kol HaKavod FCJE! The separatists represent only themselves.”
But a spokesperson for the pro-independence group “Jews for Independence” told JTA the FCJE does not represents the various opinions of Jews in Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain on this issue.
“We welcome the birth of our Catalonian Republic. It is no longer a dream,” the spokesperson said.
The motion declaring independence was approved with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and two abstentions, a result that caused Spanish shares and stock to fall sharply internationally, the Agence-Presse France reported.
Shortly before the Catalan vote, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged lawmakers in the federal parliament to give him the power to dismiss Catalonia’s secessionist leader Carles Puigdemont, his deputy and all regional ministers.
If approved, the measures under Article 155 of the constitution, designed to rein in rebels among Spain’s 17 regions, would enter into force on Saturday.
BARCELONA, Spain — Spain’s leader fired the government of the rebellious Catalonia region Friday, dissolved the regional parliament and ordered new elections after Catalan lawmakers illegally declared an independent nation.
The showdown escalated the biggest political crisis in decades to hit Spain, which is just emerging from a prolonged economic malaise. Catalonia is a critical part of the economy in Spain, the fifth largest in Europe.
“We never wanted to reach this situation, never,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on television, announcing the emergency steps he was taking under the Constitution to crush Catalan independence.
Mr. Rajoy’s move capped a frenzied day of political maneuvering in Madrid, Spain’s capital, and Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, where the long drive for independence — illegal under Spain’s Constitution — has now reached its fiercest level yet.
Whether the separatist emotion behind the independence declaration will now grow or fade could depend on how aggressively the central authorities in Madrid enforce the takeover in coming days.
As of Friday night it was unclear whether separatist leaders — who hours earlier exulted at the independence declaration — would resist. The mood in the city of Barcelona was a mix of intense joy and subdued trepidation.
“We believe it is urgent to listen to Catalan citizens, to all of them, so that they can decide their future and nobody can act outside the law on their behalf,” Mr. Rajoy said.
The steps announced by Mr. Rajoy mean Spain will take direct control over one of the country’s autonomous regions for the first time since Spain embraced democracy under the 1978 Constitution.
At the end of what he called “a sad day” for Spaniards, Mr. Rajoy assured them that he had the means to end a secessionist threat that, he said, was based on “lies, frauds and impositions.”
He removed the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, and his cabinet, as well the director general of the autonomous police force. He also ordered Catalonia’s representative offices overseas to close.
In ordering the Catalan Parliament to dissolve, Mr. Rajoy said new regional elections would be held Dec. 21.
Pending the elections and formation of a new regional government, Mr. Rajoy said, Catalonia’s administration would be run from Madrid.
Fueled by a distinct language and culture as well as economic grievances, aspirations for a separate state have percolated for generations in Catalonia before boiling over this month.
The events on Friday, coming in the chaotic aftermath of an Oct. 1 independence referendum in Catalonia, were greeted variously with anger, concern and elation on both sides, with the prospect of even more volatile confrontations in days ahead as the Spanish government moves to put the steps in place.
Spain’s attorney general may now seek to detain Catalan leaders on grounds of rebellion.
Such moves were likely to turn the boisterous separatist street celebrations that greeted the independence declaration on Friday into mass protests, with one Catalan labor union already calling on workers to stage a general strike on Monday.
During the debate in the regional parliament that preceded their vote for independence, Catalan lawmakers traded accusations and in turn described the occasion as “historic” and “happy,” or else “tragic” and a violation of Spain’s Constitution — perhaps the only thing on which both sides agreed.
Within an hour, the Spanish Senate in Madrid voted 214 to 47 to invoke Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution, granting Mr. Rajoy extraordinary powers to seize direct administrative control over the region and remove secessionist politicians, including Mr. Puigdemont, the Catalan leader.
In a speech on Friday before the vote, Mr. Rajoy had said he had “no alternative” because Mr. Puigdemont and his separatist government had pursued an illegal and unilateral path that was “contrary to the normal behavior in any democratic country like ours.”
Undeterred by Mr. Rajoys threat, and after a bitter debate, separatists in the Catalan Parliament passed a resolution to create “a Catalan republic as an independent state.”
Most of the opponents to independence walked out of the chamber in protest before the vote, which the remaining lawmakers held via secret ballot, aware that declaring independence from Spain could risk arrest.
The final tally was 70 in favor, 10 against, and two blank votes.
Since the referendum , Mr. Puigdemont had been squeezed in a tightening vise of his own creation, and seemed at times to contradict his own declarations as he squirmed for a way out.
Mr. Puigdemont, a former small city mayor, was trapped between the demands from Catalan hard-liners to declare independence on one side, and, on the other side, the stiffening response from a Rajoy government determined to preserve the nation’s Constitution and territorial integrity.
Despite pleas for mediation, he and his region’s independence bid were shunned and condemned, not only by Madrid but also by European Union officials wary of encouraging similarly minded secessionist movements around the Continent.
European leaders made clear on Friday that they would not be recognizing Catalan independence and would support Mr. Rajoy, as leader of one of the bloc’s most important member states. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, wrote in a Twitter post that “nothing changes” and “Spain remains our only interlocutor.”
Searching for a compromise, Mr. Puigdemont came close on Thursday to calling early regional elections in hopes of forestalling the drastic measures approved by the Spanish Senate on Friday and preserving Catalonia’s autonomy.
But Madrid would offer no guarantee that it would not clamp down on the region, Mr. Puigdemont said, as he immediately faced a revolt in his own ranks from secessionist hard-liners who called him a traitor.
After hours of wavering on Thursday, he relented and threw the decision on independence to Catalan lawmakers, who took the fateful plunge on Friday.
Addressing the Catalan Parliament in Spanish, Carlos Carrizosa, a lawmaker from Ciudadanos, a party that opposes secession, told Mr. Puigdemont and separatist lawmakers that, far from creating a new Catalan republic, “you will go down in history for having fractured Catalonia and for sinking the institutions of Catalonia.”
In front of the assembly, he tore apart a copy of the independence resolution. “Your job is not to promise unrealizable dreams but to improve the daily lives of people,” he said.
Before the independence vote, Marta Rovira, a separatist lawmaker, told the assembly that “today we start on a new path” to build “a better country.” She added, “We are creating a country free of repression.”
Catalan lawmakers who voted for independence could face prosecution for sedition, or even rebellion.
Marta Ribas, a Catalan lawmaker, said that Madrid’s use of Article 155 was unjustified, but also argued that “it’s a mistake to respond to one outrageous act with another outrageous act.”
She added, “A declaration of independence won’t protect us from the 155, quite the contrary.”
In the streets outside the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona, not far from a boisterous pro-independence rally, a few Catalans quietly expressed similar frustrations.
The Oct. 1 referendum did not give the Catalan government the legitimacy to vote to secede, said Federico Escolar, 53, a cafe owner.
“Most of the people who would have voted no did not participate,” Mr. Escolar said, while smoking a cigarette outside his cafe. “It was not a proper referendum. It was illegal.”
Walking into a nearby subway station, Cristina Juana, a 38-year-old social worker, agreed.
“Neither Puigdemont nor the Catalan government knows exactly what the Catalan people’s opinion is,” Ms. Juana said.
Before the Catalan Parliament’s vote for independence on Friday, large crowds had gathered outside in anticipation of what they hoped would be a historic day for Catalonia.
Many were draped in flags as they watched the parliamentary debate on two large screens, cheering during speeches by pro-independence lawmakers and hissing those of their opponents. When proceedings hit a lull, the crowds cycled through a series of pro-independence chants.
“Spanish occupiers!” was one, a reference to the national police officers who tried to stop the Oct. 1 referendum by force. “Leave Catalonia!”
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BARCELONA — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia’s independence drive took its most serious turn on Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.
It was the first time that Spain’s government had moved to strip the autonomy of one of its 17 regions, and the first time that a leader had invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution — a broad tool intended to protect the “general interests” of the nation.
The unexpectedly forceful moves by Mr. Rajoy, made after an emergency cabinet meeting, thrust Spain into uncharted waters. The prime minister is trying to put down one of the gravest constitutional crises his country has faced since embracing democracy after the death of its dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975.
The steps were immediately condemned by Catalan leaders and risked further inflaming an already volatile atmosphere in the prosperous northeastern region. On Oct. 1, thousands braved national police wielding truncheons to vote in a contentious independence referendum for Catalonia, even after it was declared illegal by the Spanish government and courts.
“There’s nothing soft or limited about what he announced today,” Josep Ramoneda, a political columnist, said of Mr. Rajoy. “We’re entering a very delicate phase, in which an independence movement that appeared to be running out of options might now draw instead on a collective sense of humiliation at seeing Catalonia being forced under Madrid’s control.”
Fueled by economic grievances and a distinct language and culture, aspirations for an independent state in Catalonia have ebbed and flowed for generations.
But the current confrontation has presented a vexing quandary not only for Spain but the entire European Union, pitting demands for self-determination against the desire to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an important member state.
Mr. Rajoy took the bold steps with broad support from Spain’s main political opposition, and will almost certainly receive the required approval next week from the Spanish Senate, where his own conservative party holds a majority.
He did so despite repeated appeals for dialogue and mediation by the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, whose independence drive has been shunned by wary European Union officials.
Mr. Rajoy said the Catalan government had never offered real dialogue but had instead tried to impose its secessionist project on Catalan citizens and the rest of the country in violation of Spain’s Constitution.
He said his government was putting an end to “a unilateral process, contrary to the law and searching for confrontation” because “no government of any democratic country can accept that the law be violated, ignored and changed.”
Mr. Rajoy said he planned to remove Mr. Puigdemont, and the rest of his separatist administration from office. The central government was also poised to take charge of Catalonia’s autonomous police force and the Catalan center for telecommunications.
Mr. Rajoy did not ask to dissolve the Catalan Parliament, but instead said that the president of the assembly would not be allowed to take any initiative judged to be contrary to Spain’s Constitution for a period of 30 days, including trying to propose another leader to replace Mr. Puigdemont.
Mr. Rajoy said that his goal was to arrange new Catalan elections within six months, so as to lift the measures taken under Article 155 as soon as possible.
It’s unclear, however, how such elections would be organized or whether they would significantly change Catalonia’s political landscape, let alone help to resolve the territorial conflict.
Mr. Puigdemont led a mass demonstration of 450,000 people in Barcelona, the region’s capital, on Saturday afternoon.
In a televised address late Saturday, Mr. Puigdemont said he would convene Parliament next week to discuss the response to Mr. Rajoy; he did not rule out using the session to declare independence. He accused the Spanish government of trying to “eliminate our self-government and our democracy.”
In a part of his speech delivered in English, Mr. Puigdemont also addressed Europe’s politicians and citizens and suggested Europe’s “foundational values are at risk” in the dispute with Madrid. “Democratically deciding the future of a nation is not a crime,” he argued.
Other Catalan separatist politicians warned that Mr. Rajoy’s announcement would escalate rather than resolve the conflict.
Josep Lluís Cleries, a Catalan Senator, told reporters on Saturday that Mr. Rajoy was suspending not autonomy in Catalonia but democracy.
Carme Forcadell, the separatist president of the Catalan Parliament, pledged on Saturday evening to defend “the sovereignty” of her assembly. “We will not take a step back,” she told a news conference. “Mr. Rajoy isn’t conscious that by attacking the institutions, he is attacking the society of this country.”
Oriol Junqueras, the region’s deputy leader, said in a tweet that Catalonia was “facing totalitarianism” and called on citizens to join the Barcelona protest on Saturday.
Significantly, Iñigo Urkullu, the leader of the Basque region, which also has a long history of separatism, described the measures as “disproportionate and extreme,” writing on Twitter that they would “dynamite the bridges” to any dialogue.
Faced with Madrid’s decision to remove him from office, Mr. Puigdemont could try to pre-empt Mr. Rajoy’s intervention and instead ask Catalan lawmakers to vote on a declaration of independence in coming days.
Mr. Puigdemont could also then try to convene Catalan elections, on his own terms, to form what he could describe as the first Parliament of a new Catalan republic.
His government has been flouting Spain’s Constitution since early September, when separatist lawmakers in the Catalan Parliament voted to hold a binding referendum on independence, as a key step toward statehood. An alliance of separatist parties has controlled the Parliament since 2015, after winning regional elections, but with only 48 percent of the vote.
Should Mr. Puigdemont resist Mr. Rajoy’s plans, Spain’s judiciary could separately step in and order that he and other separatists be arrested on charges of sedition or even rebellion for declaring independence.
Rebellion carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years. Earlier this week, a judge from Spain’s national court ordered prison without bail for two separatist leaders, pending a sedition trial.
Using Article 155 “was neither our desire nor our intention,” Mr. Rajoy said on Saturday, but had become the only way to to return Catalonia to legality, normality and maintain a Spanish economic recovery “which is now under clear danger because of the capricious and unilateral decisions” of the Catalan separatist government.
Mr. Rajoy highlighted the decision of over 1,000 Catalan companies this month to relocate their legal headquarters outside the region, in response to the uncertainty generated by the possibility of a breakup with Madrid.
Mr. Rajoy received strong backing from politicians from the main opposition parties, with the notable exception of Podemos, the far-left party that wants to use a referendum to convince Catalan voters to remain within Spain.
“We’re shocked by the suspension of democracy in Catalonia,” Pablo Echenique, a senior official from Podemos, said in a news conference on Saturday.
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Spain has attracted arguably the three brightest lights of world football, with Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Neymar all plying their skills in La Liga.
Over the past year, football fans have become used to seeing the trio caught up in accusations of tax fraud and other financial crimes by the Spanish courts.
And they are not the only players in the crosshairs of the Spanish judiciary. In 2016, Lionel Messi’s Argentina and Barcelona team-mate, Javier Mascherano, received a one-year suspended prison sentence for tax fraud.
Three players, three trials
Lionel Messi and father Jorge were last year convicted of defrauding the Spanish state of €4.1m (£3.6m; $4.6m) in unpaid taxes on the striker’s image rights, controlled by offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay.
The pair were both handed 21-month jail terms in a ruling recently confirmed by Spain’s supreme court.
Now the original Barcelona trial court must decide whether the sentences should be suspended in accordance with Spanish custom for first-time offenders whose prison terms do not exceed two years.
Prosecutors have asked for a two-year sentence and a €10m fine for Neymar, who was cleared of fraud but ordered to stand trial over alleged corruption in his 2013 move from Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona.
Now Ronaldo has become the third and final member of the elite La Liga trio to face criminal accusations, after prosecutors announced they were pursuing the 32-year-old former Manchester United man on four counts of tax fraud.
A source close to Ronaldo told the BBC that “he’s very sad and really upset” about the allegations. “He doesn’t want to stay in Spain. At this moment, he wants to leave,” the source said.
Soon after David Beckham joined Real Madrid in 2003, he was able to enjoy a new tax-exemption scheme aimed at attracting foreign talent to Spain across all sectors. That scheme became known as the Beckham Law, when he became one of the first players to sign up to a six-year-long tax ceiling of 24%, roughly half what Spaniards paid on six-figure-plus incomes.
Spain was in the midst of an unprecedented economic boom, a perfect playground for “galacticos” of the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo, before the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo and the emergence of Barcelona prodigy Lionel Messi.
But in 2010 the Beckham Law was scrapped for salaries of more than €600,000, and since then tax inspectors have begun to wise up to the use of complex financial operations using offshore shell companies to get around tax laws.
“The line between avoidance and evasion is very fine in these cases. In the past few years Spain’s tax agency has intensified its control over footballers and their companies, checking to see if they are mere fronts or whether they are really active economically,” explains Carlos Cruzado, president of tax inspectors’ union Gestha.
Case against big three
Neymar is the odd one out. His case involves alleged wrongdoing towards a contractual party regarding his transfer fee, but the forward has been found guilty in his native Brazil for tax fraud on money earned while playing for Santos.
La Liga rich list
Who earned what?
Cristiano Ronaldo: $58m salary, $35m endorsements
$80m Lionel Messi: $53m salary, $27m endorsements
$37m Neymar: $15m salary, $22m endorsements
The Messi and Ronaldo cases are similar. Both are accused of avoiding tax on sale of image rights by using offshore companies. However, the Portuguese was registered as a non-resident taxpayer under the Beckham Law, while the Argentine has spent his entire adult life registered in Spain.
Prosecutors accuse the Real Madrid star of evading tax of €14.7m between 2011 and 2014 via an alleged shell company called Tollin Associates, registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Spanish investigators say the company, owned by Ronaldo, is a “screen” and has no economic activity apart from having bought and then ceded the player’s image rights to a firm based in Ireland that “genuinely manages [his] rights sales”.
Prosecutors also claim that money earned from image rights was incorrectly described as capital gains, to benefit from a lower tax rate.
What is their defence?
Lionel Messi was informed by the judge in his case it was no defence to plead ignorance and argue that his father was the only person who knew how his money was being managed.
Neymar has denied any wrongdoing and told the court investigating his case that his father and associates dealt with off-field business matters.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s representatives and legal team say the only dispute can be about quantity and that there has been no intention to commit fraud. “There is no tax evasion scheme… There has never been any hiding nor any intention to hide anything,” they say.
They argue he has paid tax to the Spanish treasury on 20% of his total image rights when, in fact, more than 90% of these are generated outside Spain as he is such a global name.
“The tax agency clearly thinks that if he is being paid for wearing certain boots, shirts or caps in Spain, then he cannot claim this money is being earned abroad,” explains Mr Cruzado.
Will any of them go to jail?
Neymar and Lionel Messi look set to be spared prison due to Spain’s unwritten two-year-sentence rule, even if Neymar is eventually found guilty.
Cristiano Ronaldo may be a different matter. Three of the four accusations of tax fraud are considered by prosecutors to be “aggravated”, so they carry a minimum sentence of two years each. Four guilty verdicts and he could face as many as seven years.
However, an investigating judge needs to ratify the prosecutors’ accusations, and that could take many months or even years.
Even if the investigating magistrate does take up the case, the Portuguese will have several options and a guilty verdict would not necessarily mean jail.
He could admit guilt, pay taxes and fines in advance and reduce any eventual jail term to a half or quarter of the statutory minimum. That way he would slip under the standard two-year bar for first-time offenders and see his sentence suspended.