Food: Eight tasty nights of Hanukkah

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE)

 

Food: Eight tasty nights of Hanukkah

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah is a delicious, festive holiday celebrating the miracle of a drop of lamp oil that burned brightly for eight days. Let’s put Hanukkah in a modern context. It’s the first night of an eight-night holiday. Your phone charge is down to 10 percent and you don’t have access to a charger for the next week. Miraculously, the charge lasts for all eight days. That’s Hanukkah.

This year the first night of Hanukkah is Sunday, Dec. 22. The word Hanukkah means re-dedication.

It commemorates a miraculous victory to preserve the ancient temple in which a brave family called the Maccabees prevailed over a much stronger opponent. In rededicating the temple they found only one day’s holy oil, yet the holy lamp miraculously burned for eight days.

To recall this miracle each year, Jews celebrate for eight nights by gathering together to light candles on an eight branch Menorah and indulge in rich and fried foods.

This decidedly decadent tradition of eating rich and fried foods makes the holiday special. Traditional Hanukkah foods are jelly donuts, potato pancakes and rich puddings called kugels. In celebration, children play a gambling game with a top called a dreidel. Winning spins are rewarded with “gelt,” delicious gold-foil-wrapped chocolate coins. Modest gifts may be exchanged each night.

My family delights in this ultra-rich and easy to prepare Noodle Kugel. It can be easily scaled up or down, may be made ahead and freezes well. Just don’t substitute lower-fat ingredients. After all, it’s Hanukkah.

Ultra-Rich & Creamy Noodle Kugel

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

8 ounce package cream cheese

4 eggs

½ cup sour cream

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 ounce package wide egg noodles cook according to package directions

Topping:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Prepare the filling: In a food processor blend the melted butter, cream cheese and eggs. Add sugar, milk and vanilla and blend well. Gently stir in sour cream to keep the body of the sour cream so it doesn’t get liquefied. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the cooked noodles. Stir gently to combine. Pour into a greased 9-by-13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

3. Prepare the topping: Stir the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter together and mix well. Sprinkle over the uncooked kugel. Don’t worry if it seems to sink a bit, it should rise to the top as it bakes.

4. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until set. If the top browns too soon cover with foil.

Mara Kahn is a local real estate agent, co-owner of Jacob’s Kitchen, the Eighth Street East culinary outlet. Mara throws a great party.

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A guide to celebrating Hanukkah for the non-Jewish

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPECTRUM, A DIVISION OF USA TODAY)

 

A guide to celebrating Hanukkah for the non-Jewish

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Amidst the sounds, sights and smells of Christmas, some Utah residents are preparing for another holiday: the Jewish tradition of Hanukkah.

And it’s not, contrary to what some may think, the “Jewish Christmas,” said Rabbi Helene Ainbinder of Beit Chaverim Jewish Community of Greater Zion.

“I don’t compare it to Christmas at all,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a ‘Hanukkah bush’ or a ‘Hanukkah tree.’”

Ainbinder said Hanukkah is celebrated during the Hebrew month of Kislev and commemorates the Jewish people’s battle for religious freedom against Greek and Syrian armies more than 2,000 years ago. When the Greeks destroyed the holy temple in Jerusalem, a small army that became known as the Maccabees used guerrilla warfare tactics to fight back.

Eventually, the Maccabees won the war. While cleaning the temple, they found only one small jar of pure oil for kindling the menorah, but it miraculously burned for eight days instead of one. That’s why Jewish people light candles for eight days during Hanukkah, a Hebrew word that means “dedication.”

“The holiday enhances our connection (with our faith) and we realize how lucky we are that we have religious freedom and that we survived all these atrocities against us over the centuries,” Ainbinder said. “If we didn’t fight for our freedom to practice our faith, we’d all be Greeks.”

She also said it’s a smaller holiday than other Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur, but it tends to be more well-known because it’s a holiday that the whole family enjoys, with games, gifts and singing.

And while other Jewish holidays focus on the inner spirit and being guided by God, during Hanukkah, “we’re just rejoicing that we survived again,” she said.

You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the traditions of this holiday. Here are some ways non-Jewish people can celebrate Hanukkah, which falls this year from Dec. 22 through Dec. 29.

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Play with dreidels

Ainbinder said during the Greek occupation of Judea, Jews were killed if they were caught practicing their faith. That’s why they used a game of dreidels (tops) to pretend they were gambling in order to fool the soldiers. The Hebrew letters on the dreidel represent the phrase “A Great Miracle Happened Over There.”

“It was really how we preserved our heritage through these images and symbols,” Ainbinder said.

According to the website My Jewish Learning, any number of people can take part. Each player begins with an equal number of game pieces such as pennies, nuts or chocolate chips.

At the beginning of each round, every participant puts one game piece into the center “pot.” In addition, every time the pot is empty or has only one game piece left, every player should put one in the pot.

Every time it’s your turn, spin the dreidel once. Depending on the side it lands on, you give or get game pieces from the pot.

  • Nun means “nisht” or “nothing.” The player does nothing.
  • Gimel means “gantz” or “everything.” The player gets everything in the pot.
  • Hey means “halb” or “half.” The player gets half of the pot. (If there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half of the total plus one).
  • Shin (outside of Israel) means “shtel” or “put in.” Peh (in Israel) also means “put in.” The player adds a game piece to the pot.

If you find that you have no game pieces left, you are either “out” or may ask a fellow player for a “loan.” The game ends when one person has won everything.

Give chocolate gelt

Hanukkah gelt is money given as a gift or as a coin-shaped piece of chocolate, according to website Learn Religions. Gelt can be given every night of Hanukkah or only once, and chocolate gelt pieces can be used in the dreidel game.

Ainbinder said this tradition stems from the Jewish people minting their own coins when they became a free nation.

Chocolate coins are available from multiple online retailers, including Amazon, Just Candy and See’s Candies.

Attend a menorah lighting

Rabbi Mendy Cohen of Chabad of Southern Utah said that during a menorah lighting, candles are put in right to left, but lit left to right so that the newest candle is lit first.

Ainbinder added that the candles burn themselves down each night.

“The warmth of a candle brings that much more warmth to our spirit,” she said.

She also said a menorah, which means “light,” has places for nine candles; the ninth candle, shamash, is the “helper” candle that lights the others and has to be separated higher or away from the other candles.

Menorahs should be seen by the outside world, she said, which is why they’re put in windows.

During the first night of Hanukkah, Ainbinder said an extra prayer is offered to thank God that they’ve reached that moment in time. The next two prayers praise and thank God, and are repeated during every subsequent night of Hanukkah while lighting the candles.

If you’re interested in seeing a menorah lighting, Chabad of Southern Utah is holding a menorah celebration at Town Square Park (50 S. Main St.) on the first night of Hanukkah, Dec. 22, at 5 p.m. Admission is free, and Cohen said people of all backgrounds are welcome to attend.

“The message (of Hanukkah) applies to everybody,” he said. “Light over darkness. Just one small little flame, a match in a big dark room, can dispel a lot of darkness.”

In addition to lighting the first candle, the celebration will include music, dreidels, chocolate gelt, latkes and jelly doughnuts.

A new candle will be lit for the rest of Hanukkah at 8:30 p.m., Cohen said, except for Friday night because that is the start of the Jewish sabbath.

Additionally, he said a menorah is currently on display at the Red Cliffs Mall (1770 Red Cliffs Dr.).

Eat fried foods

Cohen said traditional Hanukkah foods include latkas (potato patties) and doughnuts, which are both fried in oil to remind people of the miracle of the oil.

A latka recipe in The New York Times calls for:

  • Two large Russet potatoes (about one pound), scrubbed and cut lengthwise into quarters
  • One large onion (eight ounces), peeled and cut into quarters
  • Two large eggs
  • Half cup all-purpose flour
  • Two teaspoons coarse kosher salt (or one teaspoon fine sea salt), plus more for sprinkling
  • One teaspoon baking powder
  • Half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Safflower or other oil, for frying

Grate the potatoes and onion with a food processor. Transfer the mixture to a clean dishtowel and squeeze and wring out as much of the liquid as possible.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the eggs, flour, salt, baking powder and pepper, and mix until the flour is absorbed.

In a medium heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, pour in about a quarter inch of the oil.

When the oil is hot, use a heaping tablespoon to drop the batter into the hot pan, cooking in batches. Use a spatula to flatten and shape the drops into discs. Flip when the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy. Cook until the second side is deeply browned. Transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle with salt while still warm.

A sufganiyot (Hanukkah jelly doughnuts) recipe from website My Jewish Learning calls for:

  • Apricot, red-currant or raspberry jam
  • Oil for deep frying
  • One and two-third cups flour, plus a little more if necessary
  • Two or three drops of vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt
  • One whole egg
  • Three tablespoons sour cream or vegetable oil
  • Two tablespoons sugar
  • One egg yolk
  • Confectioners’ sugar to sprinkle on
  • Quarter cup lukewarm milk or water
  • One teaspoon dried yeast

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk or water with one teaspoon of sugar and leave for 10 minutes, until it froths.

Beat the rest of the sugar with the egg and the yolk. Add the sour cream or oil, the salt, vanilla, and yeast mixture, and beat very well. Fold in the flour gradually, and continue beating until you have a soft, smooth, and elastic dough, adding more flour if necessary. Then knead for five minutes, sprinkling with a little flour if it is too sticky. Coat the dough with oil by pouring a drop in the bowl and turning the dough in it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for about two hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Knead the dough again for a few minutes, then roll out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin to quarter-inch thickness. With a pastry cutter, cut into two-inch rounds. Put a teaspoon of jam in the center of a round of dough, brush the rim with a little water to make it sticky, and cover with another round. Press the edges together to seal. Continue with the rest of the rounds and arrange them on a floured tray. Leave them to rise for about 30 minutes.

Heat one and a half inches of oil in a saucepan to medium hot. Drop in the doughnuts, a few at a time. Fry in medium-hot oil for three to four minutes with the lid on until brown, then turn and fry the other side for one minute more. Drain on paper towels. Serve sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

Kaitlyn Bancroft reports on faith, health, education and under-served communities for The Spectrum & Daily News, a USA TODAY Network newsroom in St. George, Utah. She’s a graduate of Brigham Young University’s journalism program, and has previously written for The Denver Post, The Daily Universe, Deseret News and the Davis Clipper. You can reach her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @katbancroft.

Vandals in Berlin dig up grave of Reinhard Heydrich, who helped plan Holocaust

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Vandals in Berlin dig up grave of Reinhard Heydrich, who helped plan Holocaust

German police say it appears nothing was removed from burial site of Nazi Gestapo head, who hosted Wannsee Conference and was regarded as cruel even within the Third Reich

The grave of Reinhard Heydrich, powerful head of Hitler's Reich Security Office during World War II, in Berlin on December 16, 2019.  (Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

The grave of Reinhard Heydrich, powerful head of Hitler’s Reich Security Office during World War II, in Berlin on December 16, 2019. (Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

BERLIN — The grave of a top Nazi who helped plan the Holocaust and was assassinated by British-trained agents during World War II has been dug up in Berlin, German police said on Monday.

The grave of Reinhard Heydrich was “dug up in the night between Wednesday and Thursday” and an investigation has been opened on charges of disturbing a burial site, a police spokeswoman told AFP.

German media said it appeared nothing was removed.

Heydrich was the powerful head of Hitler’s Reich Security Office, which included the Gestapo.

Less well known than other Nazi leaders, he was nevertheless highly influential and was marked out for his cruelty even within the Third Reich elite.

The grave of Reinhard Heydrich, powerful head of Hitler’s Reich Security Office during the World War II, is pictured in Berlin on December 16, 2019. (Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

Adolf Hitler admiringly used to refer to him as “the man with the iron heart,” according to the biography “Heydrich: The Face of Evil” by Mario Dederichs.

Heydrich hosted the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, when leading Nazis discussed the extermination of the Jews in German-occupied Europe.

During the Nazi occupation of what is now the Czech capital, he became known as “the Butcher of Prague.”

His car was attacked with an anti-tank mine in the city on May 27, 1942, by Czechoslovak agents trained by Britain’s secret Special Operations Executive.

Gestapo head Heinrich Muller, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, head of German criminal police Arthur Nebe and chief of state police and Gestapo in Vienna, Franz Joseph Huber, meet in Munich, Germany, in November 1939. (photo credit: German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons)

Heydrich died of his injuries a few days later.

His body was brought back to Berlin and buried in the city’s Invalidenfriedhof, a military cemetery.

Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich in an unknown location sometime in 1942. (AP Photo)

During the Cold War, the cemetery became a no-man’s land along the Berlin Wall and his tomb — along with the ones of other top Nazis — was dismantled.

But Heydrich’s remains were never disinterred and the location of the grave was an open secret.

In 2000, a group of anti-fascists said they had opened up the grave of Nazi stormtrooper Horst Wessel in Berlin, taken his skull and thrown it into the Spree River, according to the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Police at the time said no remains were stolen.

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Israel: Likud hopeful Sa’ar says two-state solution with Palestinians is an ‘illusion’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Likud hopeful Sa’ar says two-state solution with Palestinians is an ‘illusion’

Attacking PM from the right, challenger blames Netanyahu’s ‘endless concessions’ for helping perpetuate the idea that a Palestinian state is the only way to achieve a peace deal

Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar speaks at a conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar speaks at a conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Gideon Sa’ar, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sole challenger in the upcoming Likud party leadership race, said Sunday that a two-state solution with the Palestinians is an “illusion,” and attacked the premier for giving the notion credibility over the last decade.

“Throughout the world they say that a two-state solution remains the path to an agreement,” Sa’ar said, speaking at a conference.”I have to say to you, this is not a position that helps anyone. Two-states in an illusion.”

Sa’ar said this had been shown through decades of negotiations based around two-states that had failed to bring peace. He also blamed the Palestinians for “never being able to agree to a compromise, despite very generous offers.”

Sa’ar castigated Netanyahu for perpetuating the idea that two-states was the only solution, accusing him of making “endless concessions” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the last decade, including settlement building freezes in the West Bank.

He also referred to Netanyahu’s famous speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, in which the prime minister expressed support for the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu has since said conditions for statehood no longer exist in the current reality in the Middle East.

Sa’ar said that the solution needs to be an autonomous Palestinian entity linked together in a federation with Jordan. “Between the Jordan River and the (Mediterranean) Sea there cannot be another state,” he said.

Sa’ar appeared to be trying to outflank Netanyahu from the right ahead of the Likud party leadership vote, set for December 26. However, Netanyahu has in recent years also moved away from tacit support for a two-state solution and has, over the last few months, been promising to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if reelected.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a map of the Jordan Valley, vowing to extend Israeli sovereignty there if reelected, during a speech in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Likud MK Sharren Haskel on Sunday said she would back Sa’ar, becoming the fourth lawmaker to publicly endorse him. Most Likud MKs have announced support for Netanyahu, with a few notable lawmakers keeping mum. Despite the defections, Netanyahu is expected to defeat Sa’ar handily.

The vote marks the first real challenge to Netanyahu’s leadership of the party in 14 years. He and Sa’ar are the only contenders who have announced they will run in the primary.

Sa’ar argues that Netanyahu is divisive and has proved he cannot put together a coalition, after failing to muster a governing majority following two national elections in April and September. Israel will go to polls again on March 2.

Sa’ar has expressed his opposition to a two-state solution in the past. Earlier this year he was one of a group of right-wing lawmakers who sent a letter to US lawmakers warning that calls for a two-state solution are “far more dangerous to Israel” than efforts to boycott the Jewish state, and urging them to refrain from such appeals in the future.

“We believe (the proposed resolution) contains a grave error because it expresses, among other things, support for a so-called ‘Two-State Solution,’ meaning the establishment of a ‘Palestinian state’ in the heart of tiny Israel… We would like to make our position clear that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be far more dangerous to Israel than BDS,” they wrote.

A crane is used at the construction site in the West Bank settlement of Amichai on September 7, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The letter was sent to the offices of the four congressmen who co-sponsored a resolution that condemned BDS but also called for a two-state solution — Brad Schneider, Lee Zeldin, Jerry Nadler and Ann Wagner. It was written and sent at the initiative of Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset and the National Conference of Likud, an informal group of hawks within the ruling party.

Creating a Palestinian state in the region would “severely damage” both Israel’s and America’s national security, the Israeli legislators wrote.

In recent years the Trump administration has moved away from its support for a two-state solution.

Last month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Pompeo repudiated a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”

US moves that have weakened Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood have included President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the moving of the US embassy to that city and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington. These moves have been widely, though not universally, welcomed in Israel.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and his point man for the Middle East peace process, has said that the administration’s as-yet-unreleased peace plan would avoid speaking about the two-state solution.

“I realize that means different things to different people,” he said earlier this year. “If you say ‘two states’ to the Israelis it means one thing, and if you say ‘two states’ to the Palestinians it means another thing. So we said, ‘let’s just not say it.’ Let’s just work on the details of what this means.”

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5 Lakes That Are Disappearing Before Our Eyes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Lakes That Are Disappearing Before Our Eyes

Most people know that water is a precious resource. Between climate change and the needs of the world’s ever-growing population, water is vanishing more and more rapidly. Many bodies of water around the world aren’t what they once were. You may even be aware of water shortages in your area. And while some water sources are gradually diminishing, other cases are much more dramatic. The following are five lakes that are tragically disappearing before our eyes.

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The Dead Sea — Israel and Jordan

The Dead Sea — Israel and Jordan

Credit: aeduard/ iStock

The Dead Sea is a remarkable place for many reasons. Tourists flock to the area because you can swim in the sea and float due to the salinity of the water. The salt and mineral-rich mud are known for their health benefits, another big draw. The Dead Sea is also the lowest place on Earth at 430.5 meters (or 1,412 feet) below sea level!

Unfortunately, the water level is decreasing by about a meter per year. The water loss is primarily due to the fact that one of its main water sources, the Jordan River, was dammed in the 1960s. As the population grows, water from this river goes to maintaining crops and supporting the human community in the region. And because of the tense political climate, the potential solution of creating a pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea has been hard to implement. There’s still a lot of water left in the Dead Sea, but if you want to see this anomaly of nature and float in the water yourself, you might be smart to go sooner rather than later.

Lake Poopó — Bolivia

Lake Poopó — Bolivia

Credit: FernandoPodolski/ iStock

Lake Poopó is a tragic example of what can happen when humans divert too much water from a lake. This lake was once the second-largest lake in Bolivia, but now it’s all but completely dried up. Some stark aerial photos from NASA show the lake is virtually gone. This is a huge loss considering the lake saw highs of up to 3,000 square kilometers (1,200 square miles). Since the lake was always shallow, the locals are used to fluctuations in the size of the lake.

The current disappearance is not good news for the local communities that rely on the lake for fish. However, those who have been in the area for a long time have seen this before. The lake dried up entirely in 1994 because of drought and evaporation, and eventually replenished itself. So there is hope that the lake will fill back up, and the ecosystem will eventually rebuild. The rainy season in Bolivia is from December to March, so if the drought doesn’t drag on, the lake could potentially fill back up.

The Aral Sea — Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

The Aral Sea — Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

Credit: Daniel Prudek/ Shutterstock

This sea that lies on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan used to be the fourth-largest lake in the world, with only Lakes Superior, Victoria, and the Caspian Sea being larger. But when the water was diverted in the 1970s, the lake slowly began to dry up, and now only 10% of the water remains. The disappearance of the water is especially distressing for communities that used to live off of the fishing industry. The BBC describes the demise of this sea as “one of the most dramatic alterations of the Earth’s surface for centuries.”

A visual reminder of the death of this lake, perhaps for people who weren’t alive before the 1970s when the lake was full, are the stranded ships that accidentally ran ashore as the water levels dropped. The mud dried, and the landscape became a desert, with the boats as relics of what once was. People who used to farm and fish in the region have had to look for other means of income, and many have struggled to do so.

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Poyang Lake — China

Poyang Lake — China

Credit: chuyuss/ Shutterstock

Poyang Lake was once China’s largest freshwater lake. The size has always been hard to define due to the fluctuations throughout the seasons. Now, however, Poyang Lake is nearly gone due to drought and the diversion of the Yangtze River. Unlike some of the other disappearing lakes, the former lake is now an eerie grassland instead of a desert. However, if the drought continues, the land could quickly turn to sand and dirt like we’ve seen in the Aral Sea.

Some aerial photos reveal bizarre paths in the grass from people cutting through the lake bed. The disappearance of the lake certainly affects the logistics of the surrounding cities and towns. For example, the city of Nanchang used to sit right on the water’s edge. Now the shoreline is over 15 miles away. And all this change has happened in just the last century. Animal activists are especially concerned about the impending extinction of a finless porpoise that mainly lives in Poyang Lake.

Lake Chad — Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon

Lake Chad — Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon

Credit: HomoCosmicos/ iStock

Lake Chad in Africa is another story of a once-enormous lake shrinking because of irrigation, climate change, and a steadily-growing population. This African lake has shrunk by 90% since the 1960s and is the water source for 20 to 30 million people. Is there any hope for restoring its waters?

Some propose routing water from the Congo River. The main problem with that is that the river is over 2,400 kilometers away (1,500 miles), and the governments of the four countries who share the lake (Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon) are having a hard time coming to a consensus. Proponents of the plan suggest that if they can refill the lake, it would ease the crisis of nearly 11 million people in the region who need humanitarian aid to survive.

Turkish ships said to force Israeli research vessel out of Cypriot waters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Turkish ships said to force Israeli research vessel out of Cypriot waters

According to TV report, Turkish navy intercepts Israeli boat, orders it to leave; Turkey’s recent maritime deal with Libya has fueled regional tensions over drilling rights

File: Turkish navy ships in 2015 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

File: Turkish navy ships in 2015 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Turkish navy ships intercepted an Israeli research ship in Cypriot waters two weeks ago and drove it away, Channel 13 news reported Saturday, quoting senior Israeli officials.

The ship Bat Galim, of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research institution, was approached by Turkish vessels while conducting research in coordination with Cypriot officials and the Cypriot government, the report said.

The unnamed senior officials said the vessels radioed the Israeli ship, demanded to know its business in the area — despite not having jurisdiction there — and then ordered it leave. The Israeli ship had no choice but to comply and depart.

Turkey has recently taken steps to increase its influence in the eastern Mediterranean. It signed a maritime border agreement with Libya in November that has fueled regional tensions with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the region.

The three countries, which lie between Turkey and Libya, blasted the maritime border accord, saying it was inconsistent with international law. Greece has expelled the Libyan ambassador over the pact.

Meanwhile, Ankara has warned it will use its military forces if necessary to halt any exploratory gas drilling in waters off Cyprus that it claims as its own.

The Channel 13 report noted that tensions could negatively affect Israel’s plans for a submarine pipeline to transfer gas from its offshore reserves to Europe, which is set to pass through Cyprus and Greece’s territorial waters.

The report said an Israeli embassy official in Ankara was called in last week for a conversation, in which Turkish officials warned that the pipeline project would require Turkey’s approval.

“The Turks are trying to establish themselves as the ones running the show [in the region], and that is very worrying,” an official told the network.

Neighbors Greece and Turkey are divided by a series of decades-old issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. The NATO allies have come to the brink of war three times since the 1970s, including once over drilling rights in the area.

Greece insists the deal with Libya — which has no fully functioning government able to rule across all of its territory — is unenforceable and has stressed that it will protect its sovereign rights.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said he will ask other NATO members at the alliance’s London summit, which was held in the first week of December, to support Greece, in the face of fellow member Turkey’s attempts to encroach on its sovereignty.

Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a state — but does recognize the breakaway Turkish Cypriot entity, the only country to do so — and is conducting exploratory gas drilling in waters where the ethnically divided island nation has exclusive economic rights.

Ankara has said it is defending its rights and those of the Turkish Cypriots to regional energy reserves.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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Knesset dissolves, sets unprecedented third election in under a year

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Knesset dissolves, sets unprecedented third election in under a year

Israelis to head back to polls on March 2 in latest bid to solve political deadlock that has engulfed country; short-lived 22nd Knesset automatically disperses at midnight

Benny Gantz walks during a session of the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 11, 2019.(Gali TIBBON / AFP)

Benny Gantz walks during a session of the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 11, 2019.(Gali TIBBON / AFP)

Israelis will return to the ballot box for the third consecutive national election in 11 months on March 2 after its top politicians again failed to build a governing coalition, in the latest twist in a sprawling and unprecedented crisis that has left the country in political limbo for a year.

The Knesset was automatically dispersed at midnight on Wednesday, but lawmakers continued debating until early Thursday on the date of the vote.

With no Knesset member having gained the support of 61 MKs by the midnight deadline, the Knesset officially dissolved and new elections set for 90 days time, March 10.

However, having started the debate before midnight, Knesset members had until President Reuven Rivlin’s official announcement on Thursday, that no MK gained enough support to build a coalition, to pass the law setting the date for the new elections.

A general view of the Israeli parliament during a vote on a bill to dissolve the parliament, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on December 11, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

With March 10 falling on the Jewish festival on Purim and various other calendar considerations, MKs eventually finalized a bill setting the elections for March 2.

The second and third readings of the vote passed by 96 in favor with seven against. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was absent for earlier proceedings, showed up for the votes that were passed just before 3:30 a.m. Thursday.

That vote brought to an official close attempts by Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to assemble a coalition following the September election. Talks between Netanyahu and Gantz, leaders of the two-largest parties, on a unity arrangement broke down with both sides trading blame.

Over the past 21 days, lawmakers also had the opportunity to nominate any MK for a shot at forming a government by gathering 61 signatures, but no such candidate was nominated.

This combination picture created on September 18, 2019 shows, Benny Gantz (R), leader of the Blue and White political alliance, waving to supporters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing supporters at his Likud party’s electoral campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand and Menahem Kahana / AFP)

The April 2019 election made history when by the end of May it became the first-ever Israeli election that failed to produce a government. At the time, Netanyahu was short just one vote of a majority. Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman had refused to join over disagreements on the ultra-Orthodox enlistment law with Netanyahu’s Haredi political allies, precipitating the repeat vote in the fall.

Following both elections, neither Gantz’s Blue and White nor Netanyahu’s Likud had enough allies to form a government without the other or the support of the Yisrael Beytenu party, but the two parties could not finalize the terms for a unity coalition.

Netanyahu will be campaigning in the upcoming election in the shadow of criminal charges against him in three corruption probes, which were announced by the attorney general last month. He faces an indictment over bribery in one case, and fraud and breach of trust in the three cases. He denies all wrongdoing.

He also faces an internal leadership challenge by Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar in an upcoming party primary.

A member of the Israeli Druze community casts her ballot during Israel’s parliamentary elections on September 17, 2019, in Daliyat al-karmel in northern Israel. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The criminal charges have been a sticking point in the coalition talks since September, with Blue and White insisting it won’t serve under a prime minister facing trial and calling for Netanyahu to publicly declare he won’t seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution, which the prime minister is widely expected to request.

The centrist party has also been critical of the prime minister’s insistence on negotiating on behalf of all 55 MKs in his bloc of right-wing and religious parties. The parties also could not agree on who would serve as prime minister first under a power-sharing framework proposed by President Reuven Rivlin.

Even as another election has now been called, some recent polls indicated it may not resolve the political deadlock, with Liberman again potentially holding the balance of power.

A Tuesday poll showed Blue and White increasing its lead over Likud, expanding its current one-seat advantage to a four-seat lead — 37 seats to Likud’s 33 in the 120-member Knesset. Meanwhile, the rightist Haredi bloc of parties backing Netanyahu is set to fall by three seats, according to the Channel 13 poll, from the current 55 total to 52, far short of the 61 seats it would need to form a coalition in the 120-seat Knesset.

The poll predicted Likud falling even further if the party drops the scandal-laden Netanyahu in favor of his main challenger, Sa’ar.

When asked who they blamed for the expected third election, 41 percent of respondents blamed Netanyahu, followed by Yisrael Beytenu leader Liberman at 26%, and Gantz at a mere 5%. Twenty-three percent said “everyone is equally responsible.”

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Jersey City gunman was a Black Hebrew Israelite

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Jersey City gunman was a Black Hebrew Israelite, so don’t expect to hear much more about the shooting

It was only January when certain journalists went way out on a limb to give friendly news coverage to the racist and anti-Semitic Black Hebrew Israelite cult. This very odd editorial decision seemed to come in the service of better sticking it to the high school students from Covington Catholic — boys whom the Black Hebrew Israelites had taunted on the national mall, inciting what became a famous incident.

So, now that one of the black nationalist cult’s former members stands accused of a deadly shoot-out with police, possibly in an act of anti-Semitic terrorism targeting a Kosher grocery market in Jersey City, we are probably not going to hear much talk about the Black Hebrew Israelites in the broader context of radicalization and gun violence. That would be a personal and professional embarrassment for a lot of reporters and editors, some of whom are currently in the middle of defending against lawsuits by the Covington teens.

The New York Times, for example, published an entire profile in January describing the Black Hebrew Israelites and their tactics in friendly, playful terms, including “gamely engage,” “blunt and sometimes offensive,” and “attention-grabbing,” but all for the purpose of “drawing listeners near.” The profile is even sure to mention that a popular rapper once mentioned the group by name in a song.

A report published separately by the Washington Post likewise mentions the rapper incident. It does not, however, take any time to lay out the cult’s well-known history of racism and anti-Semitism. All that the report says is that the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have labeled the Black Hebrew Israelites as a “hate group” for its “inflammatory messages about white, LGBT and Jewish people.” That’s it. The Jan. 22 Washington Post story said also of the Covington episode that the Black Hebrew Israelites presence at the Lincoln Memorial “was, for the group, quite mundane,” adding further that “Israelite street preaching in parts of D.C., Philadelphia and New York is commonplace, a familiar if odd accent to city life.”

It is still possible Tuesday’s shooting spree inspires a broader conversation about gun violence and the dangers posed by radical hate groups like the Black Hebrew Israelites. But don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, the Covington teenagers, falsely portrayed as hateful bigots in the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere, are not known to have shot anyone — at least not in the last 11 months.

Suspected Jersey City gunman said to have railed against Jews online

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Suspected Jersey City gunman said to have railed against Jews online

Officials refuse to publicly elaborate on targeting of kosher market, but investigators reportedly believe rampage was motivated by anti-Semitism, anti-police sentiment

Emergency responders work at a kosher supermarket, the site of a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, December 11, 2019. (AP/Seth Wenig)

Emergency responders work at a kosher supermarket, the site of a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, December 11, 2019. (AP/Seth Wenig)

One of the suspected gunmen in the deadly Jersey City shooting at a kosher supermarket on Tuesday railed against Jews and police officers on social media, according to a report Wednesday, as authorities indicated that the store had been targeted in the deadly incident.

A law enforcement official said police believe the shooter was motivated by the anti-Semitic and anti-police beliefs, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Details of the online posts were not provided in the article.

The two suspects, who were both killed in a shootout with police, were identified as David Anderson and Francine Graham, NBC New York quoted law enforcement sources saying.

According to the network, Anderson was once a follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite’s, who believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelite’s and may practice elements of both Judaism and Christianity. Some Black Hebrew Israelite groups have been accused of racism and anti-Semitism.

Officials said a religious note was found in the vehicle allegedly used by Anderson and Graham but that they were still investigating a motive.

A neighbor of Graham’s in Jersey City told NBC she was formerly a home health aide in Manhattan who met Anderson after getting hurt and quitting her job. The neighbor said Graham became a “dark” person after meeting Anderson.

A police officer and three bystanders were killed in the violence, as were the two suspects, Tuesday afternoon in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York City. Two of the bystanders have been identified by local community members as Leah Mindel Ferencz, 33, and Moshe Deutsch, 24, both members of the local ultra-Orthodox community.

The 40-year-old slain officer, Detective Joseph Seals, who led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years, was cut down by gunfire that erupted near a cemetery. The gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout from inside the kosher market, where the five other bodies were later found.

Police officers arrive at the scene of an active shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey, on December 10, 2019. (Kena Betancur / AFP)

Local officials earlier on Wednesday said they believe the Jewish-owned supermarket was targeted, but stopped short of laying out an anti-Semitic motive. Neither the state attorney general, who is running the investigation, nor any other law enforcement authority has confirmed the shooters targeted Jews.

“Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said.

Fulop did not elaborate on why authorities now believe the market was targeted.

Steven Fulop

@StevenFulop

Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked. Due to an excess of caution the community may see additional police resources in the days/weeks ahead. We have no indication there are any further threats

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Fulop said that there were no signs of further threats, although earlier reports had said a third gunman may have escaped the scene, and said he had been in close contact with Jersey City’s Jewish community following the attack.

“I know the entire Jersey City community stands together with the Jewish Community during these challenging times,” Fulop said.

Next to the store, the only kosher supermarket in the area and a central fixture for the growing community, are a yeshiva and a synagogue. Around 100 Jewish families live in the area in the city’s Greenville neighborhood, with most of the families having moved there from Brooklyn in the last few years.

Chabad Rabbi Moshe Schapiro, who shops at the store and attends the synagogue next door, said he spoke with the store owner, Moishe Ferencz, before Ferencz learned that his wife had been killed in the attack.

“He told me he had just walked out of the store into the synagogue not five feet away just before this happened, and then he couldn’t get back for hours,” Schapiro said. “His wife was inside the store. He said, ‘I hope my wife is safe.’”

New York City councilman Chaim Deutsch, a member of the city’s Jewish caucus, said that New York City police were providing extra security to synagogues and other sites.

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Seals was credited by his superiors with having led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years, and might have been trying to stop an incident involving such weapons when he was cut down by gunfire that erupted near the cemetery, authorities said.

The bullets started flying early in the afternoon in the city of about 270,000 people, situated across the Hudson River from New York City. Seals, who worked for a unit called Cease Fire, was shot around 12:30 p.m. The gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout.

A police officer pushes pedestrians back from the scene of a shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Kelly said that when police responded to the area of the kosher store, officers “were immediately engaged by high-power rifle fire.”

“Our officers were under fire for hours,” the chief said.

Inside the grocery store, police found the bodies of who they believed were the two gunmen and three other people who apparently happened to be there when the assailants rushed in, authorities said. Police said they were confident the bystanders were shot by the gunmen and not by police.

Police officers arrive at the scene of a shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 10, 2019. (Kena Betancur/AFP)

US President Donald Trump said he had been briefed on the incident, which he called a “horrific shootout,” adding that the White House would be monitoring the situation and assisting local officials.

“Our thoughts & prayers are w/ the victims & their families during this very difficult & tragic time,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

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Israel: Elections to be held on March 2 if no coalition formed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Elections to be held on March 2 if no coalition formed

Two days before deadline, Likud and Blue and White agree on prospective date, a Monday, which must still be approved by Knesset

File: Officials count the ballots from soldiers and absentees at the Knesset in Jerusalem, a day after the general election, April 10, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

File: Officials count the ballots from soldiers and absentees at the Knesset in Jerusalem, a day after the general election, April 10, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Blue and White and Likud have agreed that the next round of elections will be held on Monday, March 2, 2020, barring a last-minute coalition deal in the next two days.

The Knesset is expected to dissolve on Wednesday night, confirming the failure of both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a governing coalition following the inconclusive September elections.

If no lawmaker manages to get the support of at least 61 members of the 120-strong Knesset by Wednesday — and no candidate appears poised to do so — elections will be called for the third time in less than a year. The months-long political paralysis has continued since a previous round of voting in April failed to result in a majority government.

The proposed election date must clear three Knesset plenary readings to be approved, though even with just Likud and Blue and White’s support it already has a parliamentary majority.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Monday the three votes would be scheduled for Wednesday.

“Even when it seems that there is no chance of preventing these costly and unnecessary elections, we will not begin this legislative process before Wednesday, to allow the party leaders to come to their senses in the eleventh hour, a moment before it’s too late,” said Edelstein.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony marking 24 years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the Knesset on November 10, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The unprecedented third round of elections in under a year will also be held on a Monday, a first for Israel, which generally holds the national vote on a Tuesday.

The change was due to a series of anniversaries and holidays that fall out on March’s Tuesdays, including a memorial day for soldiers whose burial sites are unknown, the Purim carnival, and the death anniversary of a Hasidic sage that sees a large ultra-Orthodox pilgrimage to his Polish hometown.

On Sunday, Hebrew media reports said Netanyahu’s Likud was seeking the latest possible date for the elections, while Blue and White sought the earliest.

Following September’s vote, Netanyahu and Gantz publicly supported a unity government of their parties under a power-sharing deal outlined by the president, but neither would bend on who would serve as premier first; the prime minister insisted on negotiating on behalf of his allied bloc of 55 MKs; and Blue and White ruled out serving under Netanyahu due to the criminal charges against him.

Both leaders have traded blame over the logjam.

Netanyahu will be facing a challenge within his party — Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar will by vying for the Likud leadership — and will campaign in the shadow of criminal charges against him, announced last month by the attorney general, in three corruption probes.

On Sunday, Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel was appointed to head the Central Elections Committee, replacing Hanan Melcer, who presided over the previous two elections.

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