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December 3, 2016 / 3 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

#Pyroterorism on Israelis’ Minds as Fires Continue to Rage, Thousands Evacuated

Friday, November 25th, 2016

On the fourth day of blazing fires throughout Israel, new eruptions are being reported in the north and in the Jerusalem area. Overnight between Thursday and Friday, Beit Meir, a religious moshav in the Jerusalem hills, some nine miles from Jerusalem, just off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway 1, was evacuated due to a forest fire nearby. 25 firefighting crews with 60 firemen are in the area, struggling to prevent the fire from reaching local homes. Some of the homes have caught fire, though, and sustained damage.

When the Beit Meir locals initially reported the fire, they also reported seeing several suspicious looking people running away and police launched a manhunt. Shortly thereafter one man suspected of involvement with setting the fire was arrested.

Fire investigators are already working in various scenes even as the fires continue to rage, seeking clues to help figure out if a particular fire was started due to negligence or arson. According to Fire Commander Ran Shelef, Head of the Investigations Department in the National Fire and Rescue Authority, the difficulty in establishing whether a fire was set deliberately has to do with the fact that in arson cases the fire destroys most of the evidence. In Haifa, on Thursday, for instance, investigators were certain that at least some of the fires were the result of arson, but they failed to come up with conclusive evidence.

The primary goal in an arson investigation is to locate the origin of the fire, Shelef told Ha’aretz. “In a four to five room apartment you need to reach the one room where the fire started and examine the evidence regarding the cause of the fire.” In an open field this task is much harder, Shelef explained. “The topography is of no help to us, and some of the vegetation is gone. What’s even more difficult to establish are the circumstances – one little match and you got yourself a blaze. You don’t need accelerators, an ignition device or any other special apparatus.”

One of the key clues in such cases, according to Shelef, would be discovering more than one starting point for the fire. “Two starting points that cannot be explained,” he said, would be a dead giveaway for arson.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who visited Haifa to support and thank the hundreds of firefighters who are still fighting the blazes in city neighborhoods that had seen some 65 thousand residents evacuated, also discussed pyroterorism. “Any fire that’s caused by arson, and by incitement to arson – is terrorism for all intent and purposes, and we will deal with it accordingly,” Netanyahu said. “This is my directive to the security forces, police, the GSS, and the IDF: we will repay every act of lawlessness. Anyone who will try or has tried to burn down parts of the State of Israel will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

In Beit Meir, Jerusalem District Police Commander, Major General Yoram Halevy, told reporters that “evaluations, the quick arrival of rescue and police forces and an effective deployment of the forces prevented an incident where many could have been hurt. The fire spread at a very fast pace and reached some homes. In a very short time, all the residents were evacuated and we scanned for some who may have been left behind. At this point we have control over the fire and the efforts to put out the fire will continue. Our mission is to allow residents to return to their homes as soon as possible.”

“At this point a suspect has been arrested and taken for an interrogation,” Halevy reported.

David Israel

Terrorists Attack Israeli Bus Near Ofra

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

The Hatzolah emergency service of Judea & Samaria reports that terrorists in the Binyamin region attacked an Israeli bus late Thursday night (Nov. 24).

Bus #463 came under a hail of rocks as it traveled near the Jewish community of Ofra.

No one was physically injured in the attack.

The bus driver arrived at a gas station to report the attack took place as he was driving between the Jewish communities of Ofra and Michmash.

Israeli security personnel were deployed to the area to search for the attackers.

Hana Levi Julian

Arrests Made as Israel Burns

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

A number of arrests have been made by security personnel as Israeli firefighters continued on Thursday to battle blazes raging across the center and north of the country, with communities in the south opening their doors to those who were forced to flee the flames.

“It’s likely that there is a nationalist motive in some of the arson cases,” Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh told reporters at a briefing in the northern city of Haifa on Thursday.

“We have a special integrated investigation team that is monitoring everything that is happening across the country,” he said. “I don’t want to get into questions regarding where [we suspect] arson and where we do not. If this is… arson, it could be nationalistically motivated. It’s certainly not just [simple] pyromania,” he emphasized. “And there have been arrests. But Alsheikh declined to share further details.

“There are some cases of arson, and lots of cases that are not arson,” he allowed, but revealed little else.

Four Arabs from the Palestinian Authority have been arrested so far on suspicion of having deliberately set the fires that continue to blaze across the Jerusalem Corridor.

Officials from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) said in a statement they are investigating the possibility that some of the fires are actually terrorist attacks.

Earlier in the day, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement that up to half of the fires raging across the nation were, in fact, caused by arson. High winds and dry weather, he said, meant that a spark as small as a cigarette butt could ignite a blazing forest fire.

In Haifa, a state of emergency was declared. Some 60,000 people were evacuated from their homes, at least 100 were sent to city hospitals suffering from smoke inhalation. More than a dozen neighborhoods were evacuated, local trains stopped running and the local airport was shut down.

Fires near the Paz Bridge, Haifa Bay and the city stadium were reported, with high winds and dry conditions helping the flames to spread.

Some 350 firefighters and Home Front Command rescue personnel working with 115 fire trucks battled dozens of blazes across the port city.

Southern Israeli communities have again swung into action — as they did during prior wars — and are asking families on a pre-arranged list to take in those who were forced to flee their homes.

In the northern Negev city of Arad, the S. family told JewishPress.com, “We’ve really got no room, since we moved into a smaller house since that last time, but we might take in a couple. We’ll probably put the kids in the living room; they’re still pretty small.”

Hesder yeshiva students from the Ohr Yeshu’a Yeshiva in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood caught an Arab teen red-handed as he made kindling from cardboard boxes to start another fire, Rotter.net reported. The teen managed to escape, but the students were at least able to put out the fire.

Four road workers were arrested Wednesday in the mixed-population community of Nataf, near Jerusalem, for not properly extinguishing a fire they started in order to cook a meal. They were freed Thursday.

Hana Levi Julian

Jerusalem: Building Galore

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

With this week’s announcement of the planned approval of 1,440 new apartments in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, the spotlight turns not only to the political ramifications, but also to Jerusalem’s massive growth in general.

Ramat Shlomo, named for the saintly Rabbi Shomo Zalman Auerbach, is home to some 17,000 people. The mostly haredi neighborhood is located in what used to be no-man’s land in northwestern Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s Local Planning and Construction Committee is poised to approve the new large-scale construction – despite, or because of, the changing of the guard in the U.S. government. The new buildings will be erected on an area of 70 dunams (18 acres), and will be one of the capital’s largest projects to be approved in recent years.

City officials were quoted as saying that the desire to approve the plan is definitely related to the election results. “This is a new location that until now we never considered for construction, because of Obama Administration opposition,” the source said.

Now, however, the approach is that even though no one can be sure how a President Trump will react to any given situation, “it is generally understood that whatever we don’t do in the coming two months might not be able to be done later.”

Predictably, some on the left side of the Israeli political spectrum condemned the proposal’s timing, location, and everything else about it. MK Nachman Shai, for instance, of the Zionist Union (formerly the Labor Party), said, “Building right now is crazy, and someone in Jerusalem has obviously gone out of his mind…. Approving new housing units in Jerusalem means playing into the Palestinians’ hands. It’s an invitation for international pressure. It’s like sticking a finger into the U.S. president’s eye over and over again.”

Actually, sources in the Trump camp look at it quite differently. A source close to Trump confirmed, off the record, that moves such as this construction plan might actually be to Trump’s benefit, in that when he enters office it will be a done deal and he will not have to relate to it.

Aside from the political consequences, it is worthwhile taking a look at other ways in which Yerushalayim is being built up. Let us begin with the Jerusalem Cable Car project: a two-line cable car system to and from the Western Wall and Dung Gate. As planned, the system will be able to transport 6,000 passengers per hour, a boon for both tourists and Old City residents.

First announced in May 2013, the plan was put on hold two years later but now appears to be back in the arena. The planned route includes four stations: Emek Refaim and the First Train Station, Dung Gate, Mount of Olives, and Gat Sh’manim (a site holy to Christians known as Gethsemane, near the Old City’s Gate of Lions). Each station will be separated by about 1.6 kilometers, or a four-minute ride.

The advantages of the cable car include convenience, safety, reliability, improved service for tourists, quiet, and more. But perhaps most important is what Mayor Nir Barkat told a group of Likud members during a tour of the area: “This will show everyone who really is in charge of this city.”

The Jerusalem Municipality, together with various other government bodies, has issued a short publicity video of the long-planned and oft-criticized project. With appropriately tense background music, it begins by highlighting the crowdedness, safety problems, air pollution and inconvenience caused by the city’s traffic congestion. Noting that ten million people visited the Old City in 2013, the video states that the country’s #1 tourist site “must have improved accessibility in order to actualize the city’s tourist potential.”

Upbeat and pleasant music is then heard for the duration of the video, on the backdrop of tranquil scenes of a cable car gliding over the city streets.

Will the Jerusalem Cable Car actually get off the ground? It’s hard to know at this point. But other large-scale projects are well underway, such as the expansion of the Jerusalem Light Rail. It now traverses the city all the way from N’vei Yaakov in the north to Bayit Vegan in the south, passing by Old City gates and the center of town. Construction is underway to continue this route – known as the Red Line – further south to Hadassah Hospital in Ein Karem, as well as to both campuses of Hebrew University, with a new bridge over the Menachem Begin Highway.

The Light Rail is considered to be a success. Just two years after it began operation in 2011, the number of daily passengers grew from an average of 100,000 to 140,000, and today over 150,000 passengers use it each day. An impressive 15 percent of riders say they no longer drive cars in the city. Air pollution has improved significantly as well: Carbon monoxide emissions, formerly measured at 500 parts per million, have now dropped to below 100. Pollution is reportedly so low that monitoring is no longer necessary.

Two new lines are also planned: A Green Line is scheduled to run through Ramat Eshkol, and the 20-kilometer Blue Line will take riders from Gilo and to Ramot, with another arm through Malha and Emek Refaim. The Emek Refaim part of the route has drawn tremendous opposition from local residents, who demand that the train be routed several dozen meters to the east. The matter has not yet been resolved.

Let us also note a huge construction project near the Knesset and government complex in Givat Ram: The building of a new National Library, six stories high and four stories deep. Currently just a gigantic hole in the ground, the Swiss-designed structure with a sloping oval roof is slated to be completed by 2019.

The planned Jerusalem Business District at the city entrance can also not be overlooked. With construction underway, it includes the grand Israel Railway station from where passengers will be transported to Tel Aviv in 28 minutes, two 24-story towers of the Jerusalem District Government Complex, a pedestrian garden area near Binyanei HaUmah, and more.

In short, those who manage to go a few months without seeing Jerusalem can often barely recognize it when they finally return.

To take part in the critical efforts to keep Jerusalem Jewish and united, via updates, bus tours of newsmaking parts of Jerusalem, and more, send an e-mail to tours@keepjerusalem.org or visit Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech’s website at www.keepjerusalem.org. 

Hillel Fendel and Chaim Silberstein / KeepJerusalem.org

Bereaved MK Lashes Out at Finance Ministry Over Fire Crisis

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

by Andrew Friedman Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Nava Boker (Likud), whose husband Lior Boker died in the Carmel forest fire of December, 2010, criticized the Finance Ministry on Wednesday saying proper buffer lines between natural brush and populated areas could have prevented both bodily injuries and property damage in the current round of fires.

“The Finance Ministry has been withholding monies that were earmarked for creating a buffer zones between forests and towns. These could have prevented these fires from harming people,” said Boker, who also serves as chair of the Knesset Subcommittee for Fire and Rescue Services.

Boker also pointed out the date of the current crisis, just a week before the sixth anniversary of the Carmel Forest fire.

Forty-four people died in that blaze, 74 were wounded and dozens of structures were damaged.

“It is frightening that the failures of that incident were not studied and that no conclusions were drawn. Did our loved ones die in vain?” Boker asked.

Boker said she would call for an emergency session of the subcommittee she heads in order to get answers from officials charged with drawing conclusions (from the current fires). She also said she would demand the Finance Ministry release funds that were collected from the Jewish National Fund (JNF) for the purpose (of establishing buffer zones).

“We, the bereaved families from the Carmel fire, demand an end to these types of failures. [We must] protect, once and for all, the lives of the citizens of the State of Israel,” said Boker.

In addition to the existing fires, a new blaze broke out Wednesday morning in the Jerusalem corridor, near the town of Nataf. Residents of the town were evacuated.

Health officials in fire-afflicted areas around the country issued health warnings Wednesday as brush fires continued to burn.

In Zichron Ya’akov, local officials told residents to stay indoors with the windows and vents closed as far as possible.

In the Binyamin region, authorities noted a spike in breathable [smoke] particles in and around the community of Dolev and recommended that elderly people and individuals with respiratory conditions leave the area.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

30 Arrested for Arms and Drug Trafficking

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Israel Police arrested 30 more suspects Tuesday in a sting operation involving an undercover agent who bought weapons and drugs over a six month period.

Among those arrested were 11 suspects from the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan, Sur Bahir and Ras al-Amud, also known as Ma’ale Zeitim. Those arrested were both Jewish and Muslim, and were residents of Jerusalem, Beitar Illit and Ma’ale Adumim.

“The undercover agent worked … in dangerous operations, including buying M-16s, five Carl Gustav submachine guns, a pistol and eight stun grenades,” said Israel Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld.

The suspects were accused of buying and selling arms as well as drug trafficking.

Earlier this week, a separate sting operation resulted in 37 arrests, also for arms and drug trafficking.

Hana Levi Julian

Judge Hands 100 Shekel to Destitute Thief

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Jerusalem Magistrate Court Judge Samuel Herbst this week rebuked the welfare authorities, Prisoner Reform Authority, and the Probation Service during a hearing on a criminal case against a homeless man, suggesting the above authorities should investigate urgently just how the defendant had reached a state whereby he has no way to eat and drink regularly, Ynet reported Monday.

After hearing the defendant’ testimony about his harsh condition, Judge Herbst took out a 100 shekel bill (roughly $26) and gave it to him, ordering the court clerk that he did it “so he’ll have something to eat.”

The defendant had been indicted on stealing seven beer bottles from a convenience store in Jerusalem while attacking the vendor and threatening him with a knife. He signed a plea bargain with the prosecution to serve 20 months in prison.

When he appeared before Judge Herbst, the defendant said he had been released from jail six months ago and is now living in the streets. “I depend on people’s charity,” he said, adding, “Sometimes I don’t eat or drink. Today I didn’t eat anything. Sometimes, out of despair, I use drugs.”

The defendant also reported that when he approached the various welfare authorities, a few years ago, they said they couldn’t help him. “All my life I’m in the streets,” he said. “I sleep in a sleeping bag in doorways. I can’t sleep like this.”

The judge, who confirmed the plea agreement, also ordered the defendant’s case be sent for an urgent review by the Jerusalem municipality probation, prisoner reform and welfare authorities, as well as the Gilo neighborhood welfare office and the Ministry of Welfare.


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/judge-hands-100-shekel-to-destitute-thief/2016/11/22/

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