Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert traveled to China for talks on the Iranian nuclear threat. Monday's trip also marks 15 years of relations between the countries and seeks to expand Israel's current trade relations. Olmert's family has historic ties to China: His grandparents fled there from czarist Russia in the early 1900s, and his parents were born and raised there.
"China is the country which hosted my parents. They studied in China. They spoke Chinese. They grew up in China, and the Chinese culture is part of my heritage and part of my earliest memory as a young kid in the State of Israel," Olmert was quoted as telling the Chinese news agency Xinhua. "So China is not another country for me."
Hezbollah Rebuilding, UNIFIL Ignoring
Hezbollah is rearming and United Nations forces are doing nothing to prevent it or disarm them, Israel's military intelligence chief said. Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that the Lebanese terrorist group is rebuilding its rocket-launching capabilities. He also said the Syrian army had lowered its alert level to what it was before last summer's war with Lebanon.
Yadlin told the committee it seemed clear that Syrian President Bashar Assad wanted to hold peace talks with Israel, but that his intentions were unclear.
Europe Gets Extreme-Right Caucus
Extreme-right parties in the European Parliament are forming a caucus. The Guardian reported Monday that the accession of Romania and Bulgaria this month to the European Union enabled the group's formation. Under Parliament rules, a minimum of 19 parliamentarians from at least five countries are needed for the creation of a political group.
The group expects the Bulgarian member of the Attack Party and the Romanian members of the Greater Romania Party, both of which are known for their anti-Roma, or gypsy, and racist stances, to join. The faction is to be led by French National Front member Bruno Gollnisch, who is awaiting a court verdict on charges of Holocaust denial. It also would include Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini; and Andreas Moelzer, a former adviser to far-right Austrian politician Joerg Haider.
Moelzer told the Austrian Press Agency that the group will announce its plans when the Parliament gets under way Jan. 15. By forming a caucus, the group, which is to be called Identity, Sovereignty and Transparency, will be able to avail itself of E.U. funding and easier access to leadership positions in the Parliament.
Jews Blamed for Polish Archbishop's Demise
Some supporters of a Polish archbishop who resigned amid controversy claimed Jews were responsible. Stanislaw Wielgus, the new archbishop of Warsaw, resigned Sunday at a ceremony at St. John's Cathedral that was to mark his new post. Documents in Polish newspapers have revealed that Wielgus collaborated with the communist-era secret police, a collaboration he initially denied but finally admitted.
Following the surprise resignation, fights broke out between the bishop's backers and detractors outside of St. John's, The New York Times reported Monday. Some of the supporters shouted that Jews were trying to destroy the church. The Vatican will look for a replacement for Wielgus, who was replacing Jozef Glemp. Glemp, who held the post for several decades, stirred controversy when he defended the location of a Carmelite convent and the placement of crosses just outside the former Auschwitz death camp.
Anti-Semitic Attackers Visit Anne Frank House
Ten Belgians convicted of an anti-Semitic attack visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. In the November attack, the 10 youths of Turkish descent threw stones and shouted anti-Semitic slogans at a group of Chasidic teens visiting Beringen, in eastern Belgium. Sentenced to 30 hours of community service, the youths were also invited to the Anne Frank House by Belgian Cabinet Minister Peter Vanvelthoven, who accompanied them on the visit. Vanvelthoven stated that he hoped "to encourage these youths to respect the Jewish people."
Ahmet Koc, a member of Vanvelthoven's personal Cabinet and a board member of the Turkish Union of Belgium, accompanied the group as well, saying the incident had been simply "a misunderstanding." Laura Abrahams, a press officer of Vanvelthoven's office, stated the Anne Frank House had been chosen over more local sites in Belgium because "it is easier for the perpetrators to identify with a young girl in their age group than with millions of victims."
Yeshiva Student Attacked in Sydney
One week after a Holocaust survivor was murdered in Sydney, an Israeli yeshiva student may have been attacked less than a mile from the murder scene. Shortly after midnight Jan. 4, ambulance officers responding to an anonymous call found Nitzan Zerach, 23, lying unconscious in the street on which the yeshiva is located. Police initially believed Zerach's injuries were self-inflicted as a result of intoxication, but hospital reports showed no noticeable alcohol in his system. Doctors discovered he had suffered a brain hemorrhage. Following a review of yeshiva security footage, a police spokesman told the Australian Jewish News that "new facts had come to light and that they were keeping an open mind."
Jewish Groups Call for Wage Hike
Jewish groups called on the U.S. Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25. Jewish Funds for Justice and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism sent a letter to U.S. lawmakers Monday, signed by more than 450 rabbis and rabbinical students and modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal leaders.
"Jewish labor law rests on the assumption that a full-time worker shall earn enough to support his/her family," said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Jewish Funds for Justice's education director. "To begin to realize self-sufficiency for workers as envisioned by Jewish law, we must raise the federal minimum wage."
Ayalon Joins Nefesh B'Nefesh
Israel's former ambassador to the United States was named co-chairman of Nefesh B'Nefesh. The aliyah advocacy organization praised Daniel Ayalon's "diplomatic stature, worldly expertise and passionate Zionism" in its announcement Tuesday. "Aliyah is the ultimate means to securing the future of the State of Israel and the Jewish people," Ayalon said. "Having had the distinct honor of serving the State of Israel in Washington and [becoming] intimately familiar with the American Jewish community, I am convinced of the need to further expand Western aliyah over the coming decade."
Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.