Israel news

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Analysis: Lieberman's last cabinet meeting?

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 6, 2009

Yisrael Beiteinu may have 15 Knesset members, as well as several ministries and parliamentary committees, but is still essentially a one-man party.

Avigdor Lieberman handpicked the candidates, decided which spot they would receive on the list and who would become a minister.

But now, he is learning the limitations of his power.

After an investigation which seemed never ending, the police this week recommended pressing charges against Israel’s foreign minister for allegedly money laundering over NIS 10 million (£1.5 million).


Gay rabbi talks of Tel Aviv shooting heartbreak

By Keren David, August 6, 2009

When Hillel Athias-Robles was a teenager, he would stand for a long time in the street outside the Aguda gay youth centre in Tel Aviv, scared that someone would see him go inside.

As a Charedi yeshivah student, he was terrified of being spotted by someone he knew. But it was worth the risk.

“I knew I’d found a refuge where I could be myself,” he recalled this week, in the wake of the gun attack on the centre.


Police: Don't call Tel Aviv shooting a hate crime yet

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 6, 2009

Tel Aviv police are investigating additional motives for the attack on a gay youth club on Saturday night, rather than labelling it a simple “hate crime”.

The shooting spree, which resulted in the deaths of 17-year-old Liz Trubeshi and 26-year-old Nir Katz, and the wounding of 11 others, was initially interpreted by the media and politicians as an attack against the gay and lesbian community.

The unidentified shooter was portrayed by the press as someone who hated homosexuals for religious or racist reasons.


In east Jerusalem, an Arab PR coup

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 6, 2009

Two Palestinian families sitting on street corners in east Jerusalem in the sweltering August heat are at the centre of a media and diplomatic storm this week. The eviction from the homes they have lived in for 53 years has delivered the Palestinian cause a major PR coup.