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Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Rome Jewish Leader Must Pay Court Fees of Convicted Nazi

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Italian tax collectors have ordered the president of Rome’s Jewish community and a TV reporter to pay the court fees of convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke, who lost a lawsuit against them in 1996.

“I won’t pay,” Jewish Community President Riccardo Pacifici told Italian media, but under Italian law, “all parties involved” must pay the fees to register the sentence if the guilty party is judged to have no assets.

Pacifici and TV reporter Walter Vecellio recently received a bill from the state tax collection agency for about $345, according to reports.

Priebke, 99, a former SS captain, is serving a life sentence under house arrest for his role in the 1944 massacre of 335 Romans, including about 75 Jews, in the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome.

His suit against Pacifici and Vecellio stemmed from the clashes that erupted after his initial trial in 1996, the year after he was tracked down in Argentina and extradited to Italy. A Rome military court found him guilty but freed him because of extenuating circumstances.

Scores of protesters, many of them militant young Jews, battled with police and tried to storm the courthouse. After eight hours, Italy’s justice minister ordered Priebke rearrested. He was retried in 1998 and sentenced to life in prison.

Spiegel Bemoaning ‘Germanophobia’

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

It appears that the Germans have been expecting to be forgiven for those memorable years 1933-1945, especially when considering all the goodness and stability Germany has been spreading around the continent. But the continent is refusing to be grateful, and have become quite insolent, in fact. Germany’s push for austerity during the ongoing euro crisis has prompted Nazi depictions of Chancellor Angela Merkel in many parts of Southern Europe and mass demonstrations pushing the same idea, namely that today’s Germany is pursuing the same old targets, using economic means.

This weekend, Spiegel interviewed Brendan Peter Simms, a professor of the History of International Relations in the Center of International Studies at Cambridge University, asking poignantly: “People talk of a Fourth Reich, and the hatred is palpable. Is this just absurd dramatics, or is it a reaction to a true power shift in Germany’s favor?”

Prof. Simms enlightened Spiegel’s editors—and their German readers—on the fact that the “German question” is still very much on everybody’s mind in Europe, despite the German reunification, and perhaps because of it.

“There is no doubt Germanophobia exists,” said Simms. “Look at Greece, at Italy, even Ireland, a country that has never before expressed hostility toward Germany, but which is now full of anger over increasingly painful cuts to its standard of living, an anger that comes from people feeling they have been hung out to dry. Then, of course, there is also anti-German sentiment that stems from World War II, for example in Greece.”

According to Simms, the problem starts with German politicians who tend to emphasize almost exclusively the poor conduct of the countries at the periphery of the EU, insisting that those countries change this conduct as a prerequisite for changing the EU’s political structure.

“By taking this position, they’re failing to recognize that this poor conduct was in part a result of a design flaw in the way the euro was implemented, which led to the countries at Europe’s periphery being flooded with new, cheap money… My fear is that Germany’s policies on this point consist solely of setting the European periphery conditions it can’t fulfill.”

G8 Issue Message of Hope to Palestinian Deadbeats and Firebombers

Friday, April 12th, 2013

We just received the G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Statement, and here’s what they have to say about the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP).

Well, first of all, I love the name: MEPP. Sounds like the way Israelis pronounce “Map.” Is it a hint?

So, here’s the press release, by the foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia:

G8 Foreign Ministers confirmed their commitment to a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in the Middle East… The Ministers welcomed President Obama’s visit to the region and his statement that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is necessary, just and possible.. The Ministers stressed that a long term solution to this conflict can be achieved only through direct negotiations, taking note of the 23 September 2011 statement of the Middle East Quartet. Ministers called on parties to refrain from unilateral actions and to create an atmosphere conducive to peace. They strongly reaffirmed that unilateral actions by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations.

Wait a minute, wait a minute, we interrupt this press release to examine the information therein: they “called on parties to refrain from unilateral actions”? But one of the sides, the PLO, in a stunning unilateral act, breaking the very foundation of the Oslo Accords, applied to the UN general assembly last year, to receive an “upgrade” to statehood – and guess who supported the move? France, Italy, Japan and Russia. And two other G8 states, Britain and Germany, abstained. Only the U.S. and Canada out of this bunch voted against.

Do they really think our memories are that short? Is this a planet populated largely by goldfish?

OK, go ahead with the press release, but I must register my profound dumbfoundedness.

Ministers expressed grave concerns about the poor state of the Palestinian economy, and the impact this has on Palestinian state-building efforts. Ministers affirmed their support for the Palestinian Authority and encouraged Arab countries, as well as emerging economies, to extend the fullest assistance possible to revitalizing the Palestinian economy.

Do you know who revitalizes the Palestinian economy? I’ll tell you a story:

In late 2012, former Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz halted the transfer of tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, to pay the Palestinians’ debt to the Israel Electric Company. But following US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel last month, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to release the withheld funds as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinian Authority.

The debt is estimated at $125 million.

As my friend Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu reported in this space in late March, the IEC spokesperson stated that “if there is no alternative, the utility will have to record the debt in its books as lost debt and ask the Public Utilities Authority to recognize it as an expense to be covered by electricity tariffs.”

Rates will have to be increased approximately 3 percent for one year to cover the debt, but that is only for electricity and does not cover other PA debts.

Tzvi commented: “Three percent would not be so bad by itself, but it would come on top of a 6.5 percent hike that was approved” earlier.

So now you understand who is revitalizing the Palestinian economy? The very people whose children they firebomb and stone on the highways.

Back to the G8 press release (in case you haven’t lost your breakfast yet):

The Ministers welcomed the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire of 21 November 2012 which ended hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel, condemned rocket attacks in contravention of this and urged all sides to uphold their commitments.

What commitments? The Hamas has no commitments, other than the vow to destroy Israel. I’m starting to suspect that this is what the G8 is expecting them to uphold.

Nobel Peace Prize Rewards The End of Democracy

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Many of us can, I am sure, remember where we were when we realized that the resplendence of the Nobel Prize had diminished. For some this realization can be traced to the news that Yasser Arafat had become joint recipient of the Peace Prize (an award of which he was never stripped). For others it will have been the announcement earlier this month that the award had been given to the E.U.

The thinking behind this latest award appears to be the one you can hear among the political elite of Europe and which I was recently fortunate enough to hear pronounced by a British M.P. It usually goes something like this: that without the E.U. the people of Europe would have spent the last seventy years happily massacring each other as they did throughout their past.

To believe this you have to believe a number of things. First you must believe that Europe’s past was a particular aberration and peculiar to our continent. Second, your historical knowledge must be limited to some broad ideas about the twentieth century. Third, you must ignore the 1990s. Fourth, and finally, you must believe that this unique and innate viciousness of Europeans can best be solved by abandoning democracy.

You must believe, for instance, that you go to the people for their opinions as infrequently as possible, and only then to ask for more powers. You might do this by offering placebo referenda, the catch being that if people vote against awarding more powers to the elite (as they did in Ireland, France and Holland), then the people will be made to vote again until they come up with the right answer.

Such abandonment of democratic niceties has gone on at the E.U. supranational level now for years. The miracle of awarding the Nobel Prize to the E.U. in this year of all years, though, is that this is the year in which the E.U. has managed additionally to erase the democratic process at the national level.

For more than a decade, the Nobel Peace Prize has become ever-more narrowly a political prize. How otherwise to explain the obsession with rewarding U.S. Democrat party leaders? Over the last decade alone three of them have been given the prize: Jimmy Carter in 2002, Al Gore for his slide-show presentation in 2007 and Barack Obama, for doing less, in 2009.

It is clear from these, among other awards, that the Nobel judging committee sees its role as pushing the United States in a peculiar and specific European direction. This latest award must therefore count as one of the worst-timed awards in the Nobel’s history. The distinctly non-democratic Nobel committee has chosen to reward a project which began by subverting nation-state democracy but which now appears to be quietly going about the job of ending it.

Britain, for instance, signed up for membership in a “common market.” What we have got, instead, is membership in an unaccountable super-state whose decisions and opinions now override our national laws, stripping us of sovereignty and such basic rights as deciding who should be allowed to come and live in our country. The final insult is that, presumably, there is deliberately no mechanism built into the system that allows our increasingly unnecessary national political leaders to extricate us from this situation. It is a “roach motel”: in true totalitarian fashion you can enter but you cannot leave. The Soviet dissident, author Vladimir Bukovsky, refers to the unelected, unaccountable, irremovable group as the “EUSSR.”

At the time of the award, most media focused on the unhappy visual juxtapositions that accompanied it. For at the same moment that the Nobel committee were making their announcement, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel was being greeted in Greece by protestors dressed as Nazis. It was, indeed, a powerful blend of images, nicely suggesting that peace might not be all it’s cracked up to be for the new prize winners.

But this was not the real story. As always, in an image-obsessed age it is far too easy to miss those things which are quietly going on all the time without any particularly dramatic illustrations.

It is now almost exactly a year since the E.U. parachuted in an unelected leader to run Italy. Italy’s problems, like those of Greece, are by no means straightforward, but are certainly – though nobody much likes to say this – of its own making. Like Ireland, Britain and most of the rest of Europe, Italy and Greece, for years lived far beyond their means and now face the consequences. But in last year’s appointment of Mario Monti to the head of the Italian government, the E.U. began to tread a path at the end of which is not simply a challenge to democracy but the end of it. Anybody who wants to see where the E.U. leads can see it now.

My Machberes

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Jewish History Comes Alive:
The 5773/2012 Munkatcher Sukkah

There are many magnificent sukkahs throughout the world and Boro Park has a large number of them. Most renowned are those of Munkatch and Bobov.

The Munkatcher Sukkah, on 14th Avenue between 47th and 48th Streets serves not only as a Yom Tov citadel of chassidic rapture, but as a portal to the world’s great synagogues of the past, many of which are still in daily use.

Munkatcher Rebbe dancing with Eli Isaac Vegh.

Over the past ten years, a total of 150 enlarged professional photographs have adorned the Munkatcher Sukkah and simultaneously served as major contributions to the knowledge and appreciation of Jewish history, all taking place in midst of a brimming chassidishe setting.

To enhance the Munkatcher Sukkah this year, the Rebbe, along with world-renowned synagogue photographer Joel Berkowitz, and Cantor Eli Isaac (Robert) Vegh, selected 12 exquisite 20×30 portrait photographs that date as far back as the third century CE.

The Munkatcher Sukkah will present a visual display of the following important shuls:

Ancient Shul at Kfar Bar’am, Galilee, Israel

● The Ancient Synagogue at Kfar Bar’am, Galil, Israel, constructed in the third century CE. Its elaborate structure is built of big and beautiful basalt stones. It was built in the third century CE during the Mishnaic and Talmudic period in which the Jews flourished in the Galilee. The facade of the shul, which remains almost complete, is magnificent. It has three doorways and the middle one is especially large and beautiful. These gates, which face Jerusalem, are decorated with beautiful stone carvings.

● Azik Shul, Tangier, Morocco, built in 1820.

● Beis Pinchas Shul, Isle of Djerba, one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world;

● Endigen, Switzerland, built in 1764 and rebuilt in 1854.

● The Main Synagogue of Ensonia, Italy, built in 1882.

● Etz Chaim, Larissa, Greece, built in 1800. The shul alone remains of seven that existed before the Holocaust and currently serves the community’s 350 Jews. During the German occupation, many Jews fled to nearby mountains from where they fought as partisans. The rest were deported to Auschwitz.

Synagogue Florenza, Florence, Italy

● Synagogue Florenza, built in 1874, in Florence, Italy.

● Great Synagogue, Basil, Switzerland, built in 1850 by a then Jewish population of more than 15,000.

● Ezer Shul, Isle of Djerba, built in 1500.

● The Kaddish Shul, Divinsky, Lita, built in 1873.

● Karash Shul, Bursa, Turkey, built in1645.

Inside and Outside the Florence Shul

One of the highlights this year is an interior and exterior photo of the shul in Florence, Italy, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in the world. The Munkatcher Rebbe was especially interested in the shul, completed in 1882. Considered a masterpiece of design and detail, it is one of the very few great European synagogues that survived the Nazis.

Great Synagogue, Basil, Switzerland

During World War II, the shul was used as Nazi headquarters and command post in Italy. Hitler ordered the synagogue to wired with explosives when the Nazis had to evacuate. He stood on a nearby bridge because he wished to witness the destruction of the shul. Through Heavenly design, relay switches failed and he furiously ordered the demolition crew to go back and correct the wiring defect, but was told that Allied troops had already taken up positions and that returning to the synagogue was impossible.

The shul today continues to serve the Jewish community with services three times every day.

 

The Exhibition’s Beginnings

Eli Isaac (Robert) Vegh of Lawrence is well known in the world of chazzanus. In addition to being a real estate financier, he is the chazzan for the Yamim Noraim at the Avenue N Jewish Center in Flatbush.

Eli has developed an exceptionably warm relationship with the Munkatcher Rebbe and shares his vacation experiences and shul photographs with him. The Rebbe, who has always had an intense interest in older shuls, asks a myriad of pointed questions, with a focus on whether the shuls continue to maintain traditional Torah practices and values and what their communities are like today.

Finding Moses (Part I)

Friday, September 21st, 2012

As the year draws to a close we have the book of Deuteronomy before us week after week, reviewing many of the halachos and reminding us of our harrowing trek through the wilderness. Moshe Rabbeinu is the stern narrator, guiding us to the very edge of the Promised Land, a final step he will never take. He pleads with God to let him enter the Land to no avail. Finally, “Moses, servant of Hashem, died there, in the land of Moab, by the mouth of Hashem. And He buried him in the depression, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, and no one knows his burial place to this day. (Deut. 34: 5).” We complete our reading of the Torah with tears in our eyes for our faithful teacher, prophet and leader, whose life seems to end in angst and frustration. What was the inner life of our brave and tenacious leader?

Moses at the Red Sea (detail) (ca. 235) fresco at Dura Europos Synagogue
Courtesy National Museum, Damascus, Syria

He was everywhere and then mysteriously disappeared in early Jewish Art. In all of the ancient synagogue mosaics that have survived from the first 500 years of the Common Era, not one depicts Moses. And yet in the Dura Europos synagogue murals, created around 235 CE in what is now Syria, we see Moses depicted no less than eight times, easily the most represented figure in all the 28 narratives depicted. We see his rescue from the Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter in extensive images at Dura featuring Pharaoh, his royal court, the midwives, Yocheved and Miriam, as well as a mysterious female figure fetching the baby Moses from his floating basket. Higher up on the synagogue wall multiple images of Moses are seen; heroically leading us out of Egypt, parting the sea and bringing the sea back to destroy the Egyptian army. Further along he proudly presides and towers over the Miraculous Well (Numbers 21:16-20) that sustained us after Miriam dies. Moses sustains us and then, in this ancient visual narrative, disappears. His poignant death is not even alluded to.

In Ravenna, Italy there flourished a school of Christian mosaic decoration between the 5th to 7th centuries that have yet to be surpassed in beauty and opulence. These churches and monuments formed the capital of the Byzantine Church in Italy, most notably the Basilica of San Vitale (548). These extensive and lush mosaics in the polygonal apse (altar) depict the Empress Theodora on one side and the Emperor Justinian on the other. Immediately adjacent to them are the biblical episodes of Abraham and the Three Angels and the Sacrifice of Isaac opposite the sacrifices of Abel and Melchizedech to God. Significantly, Moses is prominently featured three times. He is tenderly guarding his father-in-law’s sheep and right above that is removing his sandals before what appears to be the Burning Bush conflated with the fiery Mountain of Revelation. On the other side is Moses accepting the Law from the Hand of God. In each image Moses is smiling and clean-shaven, depicted with a halo and in typical Byzantine Roman garb that is, for that matter, much like many of the figures in Dura Europos three hundred years earlier.

Moses Tending Sheep and at the Burning Bush (548) mosaic at St. Vitale
Courtesy Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy

While for us these narrative episodes depict the beginning of our redemption as a people and the Covenant at Sinai, for Byzantine Christians the meaning was considerably more complex, almost certainly colored by the interpretations of typology. This form of Christian biblical analysis seeks to synthesize events in the Hebrew bible with the Christian scriptures, notable the belief that much of the Tanach is but an allegory that predicts the life of Jesus. Therefore Moses tending sheep foreshadows Jesus as the Good Shepherd, a humble Moses called by God predicts Jesus calling his humble disciples and the giving of the Law at Sinai reflects the new Christian covenant. This was a prominent form of Christian exegesis to give Jewish subjects an explicit Christian meaning from the time of the early Church, flourishing in the Middle Ages and prevalent up through the Protestant Reformation. Parenthetically it should be noted that Jews have used typology as a means of exegesis from the time of the Mechilta of Rabi Ishmael, a 3rd century midrash on Exodus, not to mention the fact that the Ramban was quite fond of this method of analysis based on the maxim, “ma’aseh avot siman levanim.” But one example of this is on the verse; “And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt 17 years.” …that Jacob’s descent into Egypt alludes to our present exile at the hand of the ‘fourth beast,’ which represents Rome.” (Ramban on Genesis 47:28.) The simple faith of Moses here depicted does not even hint at his tumultuous past nor the burdens of leading a stiff-necked people.

Netanyahu: Europe Must Intensify Sanctions, Declare Hezbollah a Terrorist Organization

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

JERUSALEM, Israel, Sept. 5, 2012–Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi this afternoon, reiterating his call on the international community to “set a clear redline for Iran” as well as for economic sanctions “to be intensified.”

While Netanyahu said “we appreciate the efforts that you have made and that others in Europe are making” he asked that Europe “declare Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, a terrorist organization.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/netanyahu-calls-on-europe-to-intensify-sanctions-declare-hezbollah-a-terrorist-org/2012/09/05/

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