Israel news

Dudu Topaz kills himself in prison

By Jessica Elgot, August 20, 2009

One of Israel’s top television stars, Dudu Topaz, has committed suicide in prison, the Israeli Prison Service has announced.

Mr Topaz, 62, apparently hanged himself in the shower at the Nitzan Detention Centre in Ramla while awaiting trial for multiple charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, aggravated assault and obstruction of justice.

Mr Topaz was on suicide watch but no security cameras could see him in the shower.

Zion Amir, Mr Topaz's lawyer, blamed the media circus around his trial for driving his client to suicide.

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First Jewish man elected to Fatah Council

By Jessica Elgot, August 17, 2009

An academic who renounced his Israeli citizenship is the first man of Jewish descent to be elected to Fatah’s Revolutionary Council.

Dr Uri Davis, 66, a lecturer at Al-Quds University, received Palestinian citizenship when he renounced his Israeli passport in the 1980s in protest of what he calls Israel’s “apartheid politics”. He was one of 700 Fatah members who were competing for 89 seats in the Council.

Dr Davis, who is married to a Palestinian woman and lives in Ramallah, was elected on a ticket to represent “non-Arabs who support the Palestinian cause”.

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Israelis banned from world conference

By Marcus Dysch, August 13, 2009

The Israel Antiquities Authority has launched a furious attack on the World Archaeological Congress claiming Israeli archaeologists were excluded from a conference held in Ramallah.

Together with the Archaeological Council of Israel, the IAA claimed WAC officials had “set out with the goal in mind of inserting political issues into the professional archaeological experience” during the Overcoming Structural Violence conference.

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Public outcry over IDF initiation ‘abuse’

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 13, 2009

“The truth is that neither officers nor soldiers really want to hear me when I tell them not to do initiation ceremonies,” admits Colonel Yigal Slovik, commander of the 401st Armoured Brigade.

“Everyone wants a bit of tradition. They want it to be like it was in their day, or in the days of their predecessors. If not, they feel unfulfilled. But if we let these things carry on, we will see more scenes of worsening brutality. I don’t want us to be like the Russian Spetsnaz, where soldiers die at the hands of their comrades.”

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Mayor stoned in Jerusalem Shabbat war

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 13, 2009

The dispute over Shabbat in Jerusalem worsened this week when a group of Charedi men attacked Mayor Nir Barkat and stoned his car.

The weekly battles which have raged for the past two months over the Shabbat opening of a large car park at the Mamilla Shopping Centre near the Old City show no sign of abating.

Last weekend, for the first time, strictly-Orthodox demonstrators managed to block the entrance to the car park despite the attempts of police to block them.

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Dog flies first class — for $32,000

By Jessica Elgot, August 13, 2009

An Israeli woman has paid El Al $32,000 to reserve the whole of a business class section of a flight from Paris to Tel Aviv for herself and her boxer dog “Or”, whom she refused to leave alone in the hold.

The 60-year-old woman, who gave her name only as “Rivkah,” said she wanted to make sure that she would be able to calm him down. Rivkah hired a vet to accompany them on the flight.

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Arrest over threats to gays

August 13, 2009

A soldier in the Nahal Charedi battalion was arrested last Friday over suspicions that he had threatened members of the gay community in Jerusalem.

Shmuel Primark, 20, is suspected of sending threatening messages to gay centres and posting them on internet forums. Police say they do not believe he has any connection to the shooting in Tel Aviv last week in which two members of a gay youth club were killed. Police have yet to make arrests over the shooting and are investigating whether there was a connection to a fight at the club a few days previously.

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Changes to Fatah boost pragmatists

By Ben Lynfield, Bethlehem, August 13, 2009

The election of new blood to the Fatah movement’s top ranks has brought hope that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will gain ground against political rivals Hamas.

“Those Israelis who really want a peace process that will last should be happy with the congress. Those like Netanyahu who want everything and to give up nothing should be unhappy,” said Nabil Shaath, a veteran peace negotiator and one of the few members of the movement’s old guard re-elected to Fatah’s central committee.

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Mermaid makes a splash in Israeli town

By Jessica Elgot, August 12, 2009

A mermaid is whipping up a storm in an Israeli seaside town, after dozens of people claim to have caught sight of the mythical creature.

Now Kiryat Yam town council, near Haifa, is offering $1million reward to anyone who can prove the existence of the mermaid.

The elusive mermaid, who only surfaces at twilight, has drawn crowds of tourists with their cameras.

"Many people are telling us they are sure they've seen a mermaid and they are all independent of each other," council spokesman Natti Zilberman told Sky News.

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How racism defeated the ‘X-ray rabbi’

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 6, 2009

He faced down Israel’s most famous family of mystics, became the undisputed leader of Israeli kabbalah, transformed himself into a household name and became the close confidant of tycoons and celebrities.

But now it seems that Rabbi Yaakov Ifergan has finally come up against one immovable barrier — the strictly Orthodox Ashkenazi establishment which is forcing the Sephardi star out of his home town of Netivot.

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