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NATION/WORLD BRIEFS: Agriprocessors Sold, Olmert Case, Mumbai Gunman Confesses

JTA

July 23, 2009 | 1:21 am

Agriprocessors Sold,to Remain Kosher

The Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, was sold to a Canadian company.

SHF Industries, a company formed in May by Canadian plastics manufacturer Hershey Friedman and his son-in-law Daniel Hirsch, bought the failed kosher meatpacking plant for $8.5 million. The sale was approved Monday by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Iowa.

Friedman, an observant Jew, indicated in interviews that he plans to continue operating the business as a meatpacking plant focusing on kosher products. He told the Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly that he hopes to have production up and running in time for the High Holidays.

The purchase price was well below the $22 million the plant owes to unsecured creditors, including back wages and benefits to hundreds of employees. It is also much less than the $40 million Soglowek Nahariya Ltd. of Israel was prepared to offer going into a March auction for the bankrupt company. The company rescinded before the auction took place.

According to the Iowa Independent, SHF will advance $1.8 million to the Agriprocessors estate in order to pay debts owed to First Bank Business Capital and MLIC Mortgage. Under the conditions of the sale, the new owners do not have to make good on any other debts owed.

Agriprocessors, formerly the largest kosher meat producer in the United States, has been operating at a fraction of its capacity since a May 2008 raid that trained a national spotlight on the issue of illegal immigration. It also forced the Jewish community to grapple with issues relating to the ethical treatment of workers at Jewish-owned businesses. Several company officials have faced criminal charges for their roles in employing the illegal workers and other alleged violations.

Second Corruption Case Against Olmert Closed

Israel’s attorney general closed a corruption case against Ehud Olmert.

Menachem Mazuz announced Monday that he was closing the case over the purchase of a home on a desirable street in Jerusalem due to a lack of evidence.

The former prime minister was accused of receiving a kickback via a $500,000 discount on the home in exchange for arranging for special building permits for the building company. The home was purchased in 2004 for $1.2 million; it is worth up to $1.8 million.

The Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office had recommended closing the case, saying two months ago that there was not enough evidence to convict Olmert, according to reports.

It is the second investigation to be closed against Olmert since he resigned as prime minister in the wake of several investigations against him.

Mazuz has decided to file charges against Olmert in three other cases, pending hearings.

 

Mumbai Gunman Confesses

The only surviving gunman from last November’s Mumbai attacks pleaded guilty in an Indian court.

Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a 21-year-old Pakistani citizen, was charged Monday with 86 separate offenses in the three-day attack including murder and waging war against India, according to reports.

Some 166 people died in the attack, which targeted two hotels, the train station and the Chabad center of Mumbai. The Chabad rabbi and his wife, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, as well as three other Jewish victims, were killed during the siege. The Holtzbergs’ 2-year-son, Moshe, escaped with his caregiver.

Kasab, who had pleaded not guilty in May, is facing a possible death sentence. He is the only one of the 10 alleged gunmen captured alive during the attacks.

Kasab rose in court during routine interviewing of witnesses and confessed his guilt, Reuters reported.

 

Settlers Allegedly Set Fireto Palestinian Olive Trees

Palestinian security officials said Israeli settlers set fire to at least 1,500 Palestinian-owned olive trees in the West Bank, according to Israeli reports.

Israeli media, including Ha’aretz, Ynet and the Jerusalem Post, quoting Palestinian sources that the fires were purposely set Monday by settlers, speculated that the fires allegedly were set as part of a “price tag” policy in which radical settlers retaliate for outpost removals with attacks on Palestinian property.

The fires in groves near Nablus came after police on Monday morning removed illegal structures in three West Bank outposts in the area. The outposts themselves were not evacuated.

Palestinian officials also said two Palestinian motorists were injured and five cars damaged by rocks near the Yitzhar settlement.

 

Women’s Forum Selects Term for Female Rabbi

The Hebrew title for an ordained female rabbi is “rabba,” a religious women’s forum decided.

Participants in the Kolech Religious Women’s Forum conference in Jerusalem last week voted to select a title, Ynet reported.

The voting comes several months after a woman completed the same course of training and examination as male Orthodox rabbinical students at a liberal Orthodox seminary in New York City and was given the title maharat, a Hebrew acronym that stands for Torah leader, halachic and spiritual.

The Kolech board of directors will now appeal to the Hebrew Language Academy in Israel to make the word rabba an official part of the lexicon.

Other suggestions had included “maharat,” “rav” and “hachama,” or wise.

 

Bibi Signs Off on Plan to Evacuate Outposts

The Israel Defense Forces is formulating a plan to evacuate two dozen illegal outposts in one day, an Israeli newspaper reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved the idea for the plan to evacuate the 23 outposts built after March 2001, the daily Ha’aretz reported Tuesday.

A joint exercise to prepare for the planned evacuation took place last week and was carried out by the Border Police, the police and the IDF, according to Ha’aretz.

The IDF told Ha’aretz that it was keeping the preparations for the evacuation as vague as possible except to upper echelon leaders to prevent soldiers who “identify with the settlers” from leaking the plans to them.

 

Israelis Questioned in Human Egg Trafficking Case

Some 30 Israelis suspected of being involved in human egg trafficking were detained for questioning in Romania.

Most were released Monday following questioning by police; some returned to Israel after posting large bonds. Others, considered “persons of interest,” were forbidden to leave the country. The Israeli owners of the clinic have been remanded for 29 days, Ynet reported.

The Israelis were caught during a raid on a Bucharest fertility clinic that was alleged to have been operating without the necessary permits, according to reports. Other reports suggested that the clinic was trafficking in human eggs and stem cells.

Israeli women suspected of selling their eggs were questioned, as were Israeli doctors involved in the clinic.

Under Romanian law, egg donation is permissible as long as the donor does not get paid and the egg extraction takes place in an authorized clinic, Ynet reported.

 

Appropriators Single Out Six Israeli Institutions

U.S. Senate appropriators named six Israeli health and education institutions among 15 recommended for U.S. funding.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on July 9 approved the 2010 foreign operations appropriations bill and referred it to the full Senate.

In a report accompanying the bill, it named 15 institutions that the appropriators suggested were deserving of U.S. Agency for International Development assistance under the USAID Schools and Hospitals Abroad program. Six of those were Israeli; three were Lebanese.

Report language is not mandatory, but agencies usually pay close attention to such recommendations .

The six Israeli institutions are Ashdod Emergency Medical Center; Edith Wolfson Medical Center in Holon; the Feinberg Graduate School of the Weizmann Institute of Science; Hadassah Medical Organization; Hebrew University; and Tel Aviv University.

 

Meridor: Israel, U.S. Agreedon Settlements

Israel and the United States agreed six years ago that Israel could build within the boundaries of existing settlements, an Israeli Cabinet member said.

Intelligence Affairs Minister Dan Meridor told reporters Tuesday that Israel and the U.S. had a clear agreement dating back six years, and that Israel had honored its commitment to the Middle East peace “road map.”

Meridor was a close confidante of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and served his government as a minister without portfolio.

At a briefing organized by The Israel Project, Meridor said that the Obama administration’s failure to recognize the previous understandings was “deeply problematic,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

Meridor said the Israeli government endorsed the road map’s vision for Palestinian statehood — the first time such a specific endorsement has been made — and recognized that agreements under the road map were binding on all parties.


Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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