July 9, 2008
Briefs: Obama to visit Israel this month, Hezbollah swap inches forward
The presumptive Democratic Party candidate Sen. Barack Obama is expected to arrive in Israel on July 22 or 23 for a two- or three-day visit, Yediot Achronot reported.
Obama, who is seen as keen to boost his security credentials and support among American Jews ahead of the November vote, has confirmed he plans to come to Israel as part of a pre-election tour of the region but has not yet released dates.
According to Yediot, Obama's itinerary in Israel will likely include meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other top leaders, as well as a visit to Sderot to show solidarity with residents who have suffered from Palestinian rocket barrages.
Obama's Republican counterpart, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), made a high-profile trip to Sderot as part of a recent Israel visit.
Iran Threatens to 'Burn' Tel Aviv, U.S. Targets
Iran threatened to "burn" Tel Aviv and U.S. targets in response to any attack on its nuclear sites.
"The first bullet fired by America at Iran will be followed by Iran burning down its vital interests around the globe," the Iranian news agency ISNA on Tuesday quoted Ali Shirazi, a senior aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as saying.
"The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack Iran. If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and U.S. shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran's first targets and they will be burned."
The remarks further ratcheted up international concern that Iran's refusal to abandon nuclear projects with bomb-building potential could bring on preemptive military strikes by Israel or the United States.
There was no immediate response from Washington or Jerusalem to Shirazi's statement.
Hezbollah Swap Moved Forward
Israeli negotiator Ofer Dekel flew home Monday from Europe, where he signed the Israeli-Hezbollah prisoner-swap agreement secured by a U.N.-appointed German mediator.
Hezbollah had signed separately on the deal, under which two Israeli soldiers held by the Iranian-sponsored militia since July 2006 and believed to be dead will be repatriated and Israel will free five jailed Lebanese terrorists.
The handover is expected to take place within two weeks, though there are further preliminary stages.
Jerusalem expects in the coming days to receive a report by Hezbollah on its failed efforts to locate Ron Arad, an Israeli airman who went missing in Lebanon in 1986.
In turn, Israel has presented Hezbollah with a report on four Iranian diplomats who disappeared during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
In northern Israel, meanwhile, military rabbis unearthed the remains of dozens of slain Lebanese infiltrators, which will also be returned under the deal.
Spielberg Foundation Gives $1M to Jewish History Museum
Steven Spielberg's foundation has donated $1 million to the National Museum of American Jewish History.
The grant from the Academy Award-winning director's Righteous Persons Foundation is earmarked for the museum's $150 million capital campaign. The museum's new building, to be located on Independence Mall in Philadelphia between the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, is expected to open in 2010.
The new state-of-the-art museum will feature five floors of interactive exhibition space and one of the nation's largest collections of Jewish Americana, according to the museum's Web site.
Jews Make Baseball All-Star Squads
At least three players of Jewish descent made the lineups of Major League Baseball's All-Star teams.
Boston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis will start for the American League when the game is played at Yankee Stadium in New York on July 15. Ian Kinsler, the second baseman from the Texas Rangers, will be a reserve for the American League.
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun will start for the National League.
The all-star selections were announced Sunday.
Youkilis, whose nickname is "The Greek God of Walks," openly identifies as Jewish. In explaining his charity work, he once told mlb.com, "In my religion, the Jewish religion, that's one of the biggest things that's taught, is giving a mitzvah, forming a mitzvah."
He also said, "I was always taught as a kid giving to charity. You're supposed to give a good amount of charity each and every year."
Both Braun and Kinsler have Jewish fathers and reportedly identify as half-Jewish.
Wax Hitler Beheaded in Germany
A man was arrested for beheading a wax figure of Hitler in Berlin.
The 41-year-old man was one of the first visitors to the new Madame Tussauds in Berlin, which opened to the public for the first time on Saturday, July 5.
Police arrested him while still in the exhibit, according to the German Press Agency. He was released after being charged with damaging property and inflicting bodily harm against an employee.
Reportedly, a scuffle ensued Saturday morning when two museum employees tried to grab the man as he lunged for the wax model. Shouting "No more war," he managed to tear off the head, eyewitnesses said. The damaged figure, which cost about $300,000, was removed from public view.
German Jewish journalist Henryk Broder, known for his biting commentary, told DPA he was glad that "an attack on Hitler had finally worked."
But unlike the real Hitler, this one could be restored -- if the damage is not too great, museum spokesperson Natalie Ruoss told DPA. Repairs could take up to two months, according to a museum employee.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.