February 27, 2003
Snow Hits Israel
Snow blanketed portions of Israel on Monday. Because of heavy snow in the north, the Hermon ski resort and roads leading to the Golan Heights were closed. In Jerusalem, which witnessed major traffic jams, schools closed at 2 p.m. Other parts of the country were hit by heavy rains that prompted flood alerts.
Ethiopia Criticizes Aliyah
Ethiopia denounced Israel's plans for an immigration of Ethiopians who claim Jewish heritage. "It is beyond Ethiopia's comprehension why anyone would wish to organize a mass movement of people from Ethiopia, when everyone is free to leave the country in a normal and legal way," a government official told Reuters. After years of controversy related to eligibility, Israel has announced plans to absorb some 18,000 Falash Mura Ethiopian descendants of Jews forced to convert to Christianity. The immigration is expected to take some two years.
Soldiers Sue Filmmaker
Five Israeli reserve soldiers who took part in the army incursion into the Jenin refugee camp last year sued the Arab director of a film on the operation. The plaintiffs who filed the $500,000 libel suit on Wednesday said the film, "Jenin, Jenin" slanders the soldiers who fought in Jenin and is falsely presented as a documentary. The lawsuit was also filed against the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Cinemateques, which privately screened the film despite a ban on commercial screening. The director of the film, Mohammed Bakri, said the film is "one large truth," but not the Israelis' truth.
Fired For Alleged Ties
The University of South Florida has fired a professor arrested last week for alleged ties to the terrorist group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Sami Al-Arian, a computer engineering professor, had been suspended for more than a year, and the university claims that he abused his position. Al-Arian and seven others were indicted on charges that he created a terror cell at the school and funneled financial support to the Palestinian group.
Turkish Crew Rescued
The Israeli air force rescued 10 crew members of a Turkish cargo ship that sank in the Mediterranean Sea. The boat's anchor chain broke in the stormy seas Tuesday, sending the craft adrift. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli military helicopters plucked the Turkish crewmen from life boats after their cargo ship began to go down. They were taken to a hospital for evaluation.
Belgian Official Writes Letter to Israel
Belgium's foreign minister wrote an open letter to Israel, expressing regret over the deterioration in relations between the two countries over a Belgian court decision enabling the prosecution of Israelis involved in the 1982 Lebanon War. In a letter addressed to "my Israeli friends" that was published in Israeli and Belgian newspapers, Louis Michel said a Belgian law that grants judges universal jurisdiction for war crimes is not specifically aimed against Israel. He also promised to "vigorously oppose" anti-Semitism. Earlier this month, Israel recalled its ambassador over the court ruling, which would authorize the Belgian court system to try Ariel Sharon in connection with the 1982 killing of Palestinians by Christian Phalangists in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps after Sharon steps down as prime minister.
Report Blasts Austrian Restitution Efforts
The Claims Conference welcomed a report commissioned by the Austrian government that called Austria's attempts at restitution "often half-hearted and sometimes utterly reluctant."
Reacting to the report, Gideon Taylor, the Claims Conference's executive vice president, said: "For decades, Austria did not attempt to right the wrongs done to its former Jewish community." He added: "There seems now to be a new outlook on this matter, and we welcome the change. We hope that the conclusions and recommendations arising from this report will be properly and promptly implemented."
The Claims Conference negotiated a restitution and compensation agreement with Austrian government and industry in 2001 that was worth approximately $500 million. The agreement covered payments for stolen assets such as apartment leases, businesses and household items, and for welfare benefits to aging, needy former Austrian Jews.
Bobsledders to Compete for Israel
One Canadian and two Americans have established a bobsled team that they hope will compete for Israel in the next Winter Olympics. David Greaves of Winnipeg, and Aaron Zeff and John Frank, both of San Francisco, have received authorization from the Israeli Olympic Committee. All three have applied for Israeli citizenship. They hope that their bobsled, Israel One, will cheer the people of Israel.
Their newly formed Israeli Bobsled Federation has invented a new Hebrew word for bobsled "mizchelet bob" based on mizchelet, the Hebrew word for sled.
High Court Refuses Kosher Case
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider reinstating New York laws that set standards for the labeling of kosher food. The court offered no comment when it refused the case Monday. Last year, an appeals court struck down the New York laws, ruling that the laws improperly take sides in a religious matter.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.