World news

Sharansky to head Jewish agency

June 26, 2009

The former Soviet Prisoner of Zion, Natan Sharansky, has been elected chairman of the Jewish Agency. The vote, on Thursday evening, was unanimous despite initial concerns by American delegates.

Mr Sharansky, born in 1948 in the Ukraine, became the symbol of the movement to free Soviet Jewry, spending years in Soviet prison in isolation and forced labour. In 1986, after international pressure, he was freed and came to Israel.


Britney Spears to star in Holocaust film

By Marcus Dysch, June 25, 2009

Of all the women you might pick to star in a sensitive film about the Holocaust, Britney Spears is unlikely to top the list. But the controversial singer, whose private life is frequently all over the tabloids, is rumoured to have been offered the leading role in a new Holocaust film.

Reports in the US suggest she will appear in The Yellow Star of Sophia and Eton, which may start filming in North America later this year.

Britney’s character, Sophia, builds a time machine and travels back to the Second World War, where she meets Eton, a Jewish prisoner of a death camp.


Surrogate baby joy for Sarah Jessica Parker

By Jan Shure, June 24, 2009

Sarah Jessica Parker, aka Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, and her actor husband Matthew Broderick have twin daughters via a surrogate mother, the couple’s publicists have announced.

Parker, 44, and Broderick, 47, who already have a six-year-old son, James Wilkie, have named their daughters Marion Loretta Elwell and Tabitha Hodge. The babies were born on Monday in Ohio, home state of the surrogate mother.

"The babies are doing beautifully and the entire family is over the moon," the couple said in a statement.


PA starts site in Ivrit

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 18, 2009

WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, launched a Hebrew website this week, in order to “present Israelis with another view of what is happening on the other side.”

WAFA is based in the PA offices in Ramallah but Faiz Abbas, an Israeli who resigned from Yediot in 2006, edits the website from his home in the Galilee.

Ma’an, the independent Palestinian news agency, set up a Hebrew website in 2005 but failed to attract many readers. Editor Abbas believes that his new website will be more successful.


Israel fears an even more radical Iran

By Ben Lynfield, Jerusalem, June 18, 2009

If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is confirmed as the next Iranian president despite the protests against the regime this week, analysts predict even more strident policies towards Israel and the wider region than had he won straight.

“If the regime wins, it will be more self-confident, more defiant,” said Tel Aviv University Iran specialist Meir Litvak. “It would mean a further boost to radical forces in the region.”

He noted that the leaders of Hamas and Hizbollah were among the first to congratulate Mr Ahmadinejad when his victory was declared.


Rabbis fight cremations in US

By Sue Fishkoff, California, June 18, 2009

As increasing numbers of Americans choose cremation, a national organisation of liberal burial societies is trying to promote burial among the non-Orthodox.

“We’re going on the positive offensive rather than the negative ‘don’t get cremated’ route,” said Rabbi Stuart Kelman, president of Kavod v’Nichum, a North American consortium of burial societies.


More Israelis can opt for civil burials

By Nathan Jeffay Haifa, June 18, 2009

The prospect of civil marriage in Israel is receding, but civil burial became easier with the opening of the country’s second state civil cemetery.

Administered by a non-governmental organisation called Menucha Nechona (Proper Rest), the new facility, in Kfar Saba, will accommodate people of all religions and none. Burial rituals will be a matter of personal choice, as will be the style of burial. Coffins, though unusual in Israel, may be used.

There is only one other state civil cemetery; in Be’er Sheba in the Negev.


Museum shooting blamed on... Obama

By Hilary Krieger, Washington, June 18, 2009

Could Barack Obama’s election to the presidency be behind a rise in anti-Jewish activity in the US?

This is the theory being advanced by experts on extremism, who say that membership of anti-Jewish groups has grown since he became the country’s first African-American president.

Members of these groups seem to believe that the Jews are behind his election, and that Mr Obama and the Jews are plotting to destroy white people.


Racist duo are sent back to UK

By Leon Symons, June 18, 2009

Two men who were refused political asylum in America after being convicted in Britain of publishing racially inflammatory material on the internet appeared at Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday afternoon.

Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle fled to California. They were sent home on Tuesday, 11 months after jumping bail while the jury in their trial were part-way through returning their verdicts.


Rabbi faces extradition over ‘fraud’

By Leon Symons, June 18, 2009

A Charedi rabbi is considering whether to take his fight against extradition to America to the House of Lords after a legal defeat on Wednesday.

Avrum Friesel, 56, moved to Stamford Hill in 1999. He had been wanted in America on fraud charges allegedly committed in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was town clerk of the New Square Town in New York, a Chasidic community belonging to the Skverer sect.