Rabbi David Halivni won the Israel Prize for Talmud. Halivni, who made aliyah in 2005, wrote a seven-volume commentary on the Talmud. He teaches at Bar-Ilan University and Hebrew University, and was a professor for many years at Columbia University in New York. The founder of the Union for Traditional Judaism, a transdenominational religious organization that has attracted thousands of Orthodox and traditionally observant Jews, Halivni was born in Ukraine in 1927 and was ordained at the age of 15. He was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. The Israel Prize, the highest honor in Israel, will be awarded on Israel Independence Day, observed this year on May 8.
Gore, Oz Among Dan Prize winners
Al Gore, Tom Stoppard and Amoz Oz are among the 2008 Dan David Prize winners. The winners in each category from three time dimensions -- past, present and future -- will be presented $1 million prizes in a ceremony in May at Tel Aviv University.
Oz, an Israeli author, and Stoppard, a British playwright, share the prize in the past category in the field of literature, theater and film with Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan. Gore, the former U.S. vice president and a Nobel Prize winner, won in the present category in the field of social responsibility with emphasis on the environment. Sharing the prize in the future category, in the field of geosciences, are American professors Ellen Moseley-Thompson and Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University, and British scientist Geoffrey Eglinton.
The Dan David Prize each year rewards achievements that have an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact on the world. Founded in 2001, the prize is named for international businessman and philanthropist Dan David and headquartered at Tel Aviv University.
Palestinian Population Soars
The Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem has grown 30 percent over the past decade, a census found. The Palestinian Authority's Central Bureau of Statistics, having completed its first census in a decade, announced Saturday that the Palestinian population stands at 3.76 million, up from 2.89 million in 1997. The figures could bolster Palestinian Authority demands for Israel, which quit Gaza in 2005, to cede large parts of the West Bank and even east Jerusalem under peace talks that were revived in November.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, like his predecessor Ariel Sharon, argues that a growing Palestinian population in the territories, as well as a relatively high birth rate among Israel's Arab citizens, poses a "demographic threat" to the Jewish state. The answer to this threat, Olmert says, is a Palestinian state. Israeli demographers in the past have accused Palestinian census takers of inflating population figures for the sake of political gain. There was no immediate Israeli response to the latest census.
Israel's population of 7.2 million is 80 percent Jewish and approximately 20 percent Arab. Palestinians say they have as many as 4 million compatriots living abroad as "exiled refugees" and who also stake a claim in future nationhood.
Kucinich Denies AIPAC Meeting
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) denied an Internet rumor that Jewish officials had offered to help him win re-election if he dropped impeachment efforts against President Bush. The rumor, which has gained traction in recent days on left-wing blogs, alleges that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and several representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee offered to "guarantee" Kucinich's re-election to the House if he dropped his effort to impeach President Bush and Vice-President Cheney.
According to the account, Kucinich threw them out of his office. An official in Kucinich's office told JTA Monday that the rumors were baseless.
"It never happened," the official said.
Gibson Honor Roils Irish Rabbi
The Irish Film and Television Academy will pay tribute to Mel Gibson, an actor and director, at its award ceremony Feb. 17 for his contributions to world cinema. According to the Irish newspaper the Independent, a leading rabbi in Ireland condemned the recognition for Gibson in light of widely publicized anti-Semitic comments he made to California police officers after being arrested for drunk driving in 2006. The citation stresses Gibson's Irish roots -- his mother and paternal great-grandfather were Irish. Gibson also made his movie "Braveheart" in Ireland.
Ireland's Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism has been named an official partner of the ceremony, though the department does not fund the academy. The Gibson controversy comes on the heels of a department inquiry into accusations that paintings stolen by the Nazis were on display in the Limerick Hunt Museum.
Chicago-Area Synagogue is Greenest
A $10 million project earned The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, Ill., the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. The "platinum" rating was awarded for features such as using recycled concrete, sensor-controlled lighting and a parking space reserved for a hybrid car. Six churches across the country have received similar certification.
A synagogue in San Luis Obispo is seeking a lower silver rating. The Reconstructionist synagogue's energy costs will be about 45 percent less than a typical synagogue of the same size.
No Dem Delegate Status for Lieberman
U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will not get delegate status at the Democratic convention. Lieberman remains a registered Democrat and caucuses with the party in the Senate despite his 2006 reelection as an Independent after he lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont. That status might have qualified as a "super delegate," one of several hundred automatic delegates -- among them, Congress members -- who are not selected through the primaries and caucus system.
However, Connecticut state Democratic officials told The Hartford Courant that Lieberman's endorsement of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) violates a rule against endorsing a candidate across the aisle.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency