World news

Ancient shuls are exposed

By Sami Kohen, Istanbul, September 18, 2009

Archaeologists have uncovered two of the world’s oldest synagogues.

In Israel, a synagogue from the Second Temple period was discovered at a site slated for the construction of a hotel on the shore of the Kinneret.

It is only the seventh synagogue in the world that is known to date back that far.

The main hall of synagogue is around 120 sq m in area and its stone benches, which served as seats for the worshippers, were built up against the walls of the hall.

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Neo-Nazi attack on Budapest shul

By Thomas Land, September 18, 2009

Europe’s largest shul was attacked last week by an antisemitic crowd venting their frustration that police had stopped them disrupting a Gay Pride Parade taking place nearby.

The Great Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest celebrated its 150th anniversary the next day.
During the ceremony, Prime Minister Gordon Bajnaj expressed regret that the building still needs permanent police protection from neo-Nazi thugs.

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Human Rights Watch man suspended for Nazi collection

September 18, 2009

Human Rights Watch has suspended its senior military analyst after it was revealed that he is a collector of Nazi memorabilia.

The group initially stood by Mark Garlasco, saying he “has never held or expressed Nazi or antisemitic views”.

His work, according to Carroll Bogert, the New York-based organisation’s associate director, had been “extensively reviewed, lawyered, scrutinised, pulverised by our programme and legal staff, and we have not in six years ever had cause to question his professional judgment”.

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Israeli film wins top prize at Venice

By Jessica Elgot, September 14, 2009

An Israeli film, set inside a tank during the 1982 Lebanon war, has won the top honour at the Venice film festival.

The Golden Lion for best film went to Lebanon, directed by Samuel Moaz, which is based on the director’s own traumatic experiences in the army when he was a gunner.

It is the highest honour an Israeli film has ever received.

It took Mr Moaz more than 25 years to commit his traumatic experiences to writing, because he was physically sick every time he remembered his war years.

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In New York, rabbis take on bohemians in a bicycle war

By Ellen Tumposky, September 10, 2009

On one side of Broadway — a main street in the New York suburb of Williamsburg — bohemian 20-somethings in sunglasses and shorts work on laptops at an outdoor café.

Across the street, Satmar Chasidim in black hats stroll outside the office of Der Yid, the Satmar Yiddish language weekly.

Tensions between the two communities, living cheek by jowl but rarely interacting, have recently risen to boiling point over an unlikely issue — bike lanes on avenues that run through both their sides of the neighbourhood.

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Fears over UN Gaza report

By Bernard Josephs, September 10, 2009

A United Nations investigation into the Gaza conflict will be used as a political weapon to undermine Israel and could lead to an upsurge of international antisemitism, the head of a Geneva NGO has warned.

Hillel Neuer, director of the highly respected UN Watch, has said the group is preparing to challenge the report, which is due to be formally presented to the UN Human Rights Commission at the end of the month.

It is widely believed that the report will result in calls for Israel to be prosecuted for alleged war crimes.

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Stasi link to Claims Conference lawyer

By Toby Axelrod in Berlin, September 10, 2009

Turn over any stone in the former East Germany and you are likely to find an agent of the Stasi, the former secret service. And the Claims Conference apparently did just that.

Recently, the Claims Conference — whose successor organisation handles compensation for property stolen during the Shoah — learned that an attorney in its employment had once been “an unofficial employee of the Stasi”.

Many former East Germans worked for the Stasi, though some were listed as informants without their knowledge.

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Orthodox women offer de-licing service at $200 a head

By Paul Berger, September 10, 2009

To most people, the beginning of the school year in New York means bright September days, shiny new lunch boxes and meeting friends.

But to Dalya Harel it signifies one thing above all else — the start of head lice-hunting season.

Mrs Harel, 48, is founder of LiceBustersNYC, one of a dozen or more lice-removal businesses in the New York area run by Orthodox women.

Her competitors include Adele Horowitz’s Licenders, Susan Sherman’s LiceBGoners and Abigail “The Lice Lady” Rosenfeld.

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Group lobbies against Ahmadinejad hotel stay

September 10, 2009

A high-profile advocacy group is campaigning to stop a top New York hotel from hosting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next week.

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) was founded by diplomats Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke, both of whom serve in the Obama administration, and its president is Mark Wallace, a former US ambassador to the UN.

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Egyptian who threatened to burn Israeli books to get UN job

By Ben Lynfield, September 10, 2009

Egypt’s culture minister, Farouk Hosni, who last year said he would burn any Israeli books he found in the country’s libraries, is the favourite to win the UN’s top cultural post in an election that begins next week.

Surprisingly, Mr Hosni’s chances of becoming head of Unesco have been boosted by Israel, of all countries, despite being for years an object of his scorn.

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