May 15, 2008
Briefs: Drug and immigration bust at kosher meat plant, Israel says no Hamas truce without Schalit
Federal authorities charged that a methamphetamine laboratory was operating at the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse and that employees carried weapons to work.
The charges were among the most explosive details to emerge following the massive raid Monday at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa. In a 60-page application for a search warrant, federal agents revealed details of their six-month probe of Agriprocessors. The investigation involved 12 federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the departments of labor and agriculture.
According to the application, a former plant supervisor told investigators that some 80 percent of the workforce was illegal. They included rabbis responsible for kosher supervision, who the source believed entered the United States from Canada without proper immigration documents. The source did not provide evidence for his suspicion about the rabbis. The source also claimed to have confronted a human resources manager with Social Security cards from three employees that had the same number. The manager laughed when the matter was raised, the source said.
At least 300 people were arrested Monday during the raid, for which federal authorities had rented an expansive fairground nearby to serve as a processing center for detainees. The search warrant application said that 697 plant employees were believed to have violated federal laws. Agriprocessors officials did not return calls from JTA seeking comment.
Israel Signals Possible Truce With Hamas in Gaza Hinges on Freeing Kidnapped Soldier
Israel signaled that any truce with Hamas in Gaza would be conditioned on the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Egyptian mediator Omar Suleiman held high-level talks in Israel on Monday about a Hamas proposal for a six-month cease-fire in Gaza accompanied by a lifting of the economic embargo on the territory. Israel, which had previously rebuffed the idea, appeared to be conditioning acquiescence on Hamas first freeing Shalit, a soldier it has held since June 2006.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak's office said after his discussions with Suleiman that Shalit was a "central factor" in "reaching a security arrangement in Gaza," though Israel would remain firm on its other demands that Palestinian arms-smuggling and attacks also cease completely.
Poll Finds 59 Percent of Israelis Want Olmert Out
A narrow majority of Israelis believe Ehud Olmert should resign over suspicions of financial misdeeds, a poll found. According to the survey in Monday's Yediot Achronot, 59 percent of Israelis want the prime minister to step down in light of a police investigation into his ties with a U.S. financier at the heart of bribery allegations. Thirty-three percent back Olmert's decision to stay in office, and the rest are undecided.
Olmert has denied wrongdoing in the Morris Talansky affair. However, the poll found that 60 percent of Israelis do not believe the prime minister's public assertions that he never took bribes, while 22 percent do.
The scandal appears to have hit Olmert's already low approval ratings. According to Yediot, which in February found that 18 percent of Israelis thought Olmert was best suited to be prime minister, that figure is now down to 10 percent. By contrast, 37 percent of Israelis want right-wing former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in power, while 20 percent favor Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, another former premier who is now Olmert's defense minister. But Olmert's centrist Kadima Party could see surprising success against Netanyahu's Likud if the prime minister were replaced by his senior deputy, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and elections were held today.
According to the Yediot poll, a Livni-led Kadima would take 27 percent of the votes against 23 percent for Likud and 15 percent for Labor. The survey had 500 respondents and a 4.5 percent margin of error.
Rescuer of Warsaw Ghetto Children Dies
Irena Sendler, who smuggled some 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto to safety during World War II, died Monday in Warsaw. Sendler, who was later arrested and tortured by the Gestapo, was 98. Between October 1940 and April 1943, Sendler and a team of about 20 volunteers smuggled the children out in boxes or suitcases. She then placed them with Polish families. As a social worker, Sendler visited the ghetto regularly.
In 1965, she was among the first people named by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. She also was made an honorary Israeli citizen. Sendler was nominated last year for a Nobel Peace Prize.
She lived in relative obscurity until about eight years ago, when a group of students from Uniontown, Kan., learned about her wartime heroism and wrote a play about it. The play has been performed in North America and Poland.
Kabbalah Museum to Open in Jerusalem
A museum devoted exclusively to Kabbalah will open in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Kabbalah Museum -- the only museum devoted exclusively to Judaism's mystical tradition, according to its founder -- is scheduled to open June 25. It will display such artifacts as amulets, garments and historical manuscripts; provide education, including personal Kabbalah training, and offer tours of Israel, focusing on sites of kabbalistic interest.
Founding director Rabbi Chaim Dalfin, the author of "Soul Journeys" -- a book about Kabbalah -- said the museum is targeted at both Jews and non-Jews. While "Kabbalah ma'asit," or practical Kabbalah involving incantations, is esoteric knowledge that Dalfin said institutions "should stay away from," he said the new museum will present "teachings that are open to anyone."
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency