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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

How 1970s Hassidic Hackers Created Worldwide Broadcast Network

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

By Mordechai Lightstone

This article appeared originally on Chabad.org.

This is the story of how a handful of young Hassidim set out to build a global communications network in the era before Periscope, Skype, VoIP, or even satellite or Cable TV. Their actions would sow the seeds for dozens of future Chabad-led forays into digital communications.

As Shabbat ended and the Sabbath peace faded on Saturday, Jan. 17, 1970, there was a palpable sense of excitement on the ragged streets of Crown Heights, N.Y., the Brooklyn neighborhood that’s home to Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters. The previous decade had not been kind to residents. Crime rates had shot up. Blockbusting had led to so-called “white flight,” as rapidly shifting demographics and the general malaise that had begun to afflict New York City in the Lindsay administration took hold. Once home to Jews of all backgrounds, only Lubavitcher Chassidim—many of them survivors of the Holocaust and of Soviet oppression—remained en masse as a Jewish community, a harden bulwark against what locals perceived as a communal collapse.

That Shabbat, however—the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat and the day preceding it—was decidedly different.

In January 1970, for the very first time, the Rebbe’s talk at the farbrengen after Shabbat was broadcast live through a phone-line hook-up to 1,000 Chassidim gathered in the village of Kfar Chabad, Israel. Inside the “World Lubavitch Communications Center” (WLCC), Meni Wolff can be seen working on the broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

In January 1970, for the very first time, the Rebbe’s talk at the farbrengen after Shabbat was broadcast live through a phone-line hook-up to 1,000 Chassidim gathered in the village of Kfar Chabad, Israel. Inside the “World Lubavitch Communications Center” (WLCC), Meni Wolff can be seen working on the broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

At 38 degrees, the weather was relatively balmy for mid-winter, and the streets thronged with thousands of Chassidim. More than 100 guests had arrived from Israel, with even more from Jewish communities in Montreal, Los Angeles, London and beyond. It was the 20th yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing) of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory—and the date that his successor, the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—assumed the mantle of leadership for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

When the Rebbe delivered his first discourse 20 years earlier, the Chabad community in the Western Hemisphere numbered in the dozens. Under his guidance, the movement had blossomed, with some 100 Chabad Houses (outposts of Jewish observance and life) opening in communities and on college campuses large and small to serve Jews around the world.

That Friday had seen the completion of the “Sefer Torah to Greet Moshiach,” a Torah scroll begun by the Previous Rebbe in 1942. Though the majority of the scroll had been written relatively quickly, its completion had languished; by 1970, the project was all but forgotten. The week before, however, the Rebbe had announced that the Torah would be completed on Friday afternoon, the ninth of Shevat, and that a grand dedication would be held.

Inside the Jerusalem regional hub for the WLCC

Inside the Jerusalem regional hub for the WLCC

Instead of the normal hustle-and-bustle of preparation before Shabbat, that Friday the challahs had all been baked, the chicken already roasted and the matzah-ball soup put up the night before. Everyone was to be found at 770 Eastern Parkway, Lubavitch World Headquarters. In a first for the Rebbe, a photographer was brought in to officially document the day’s proceedings. Also for the first time, after Shabbat the Rebbe’s talk at the farbrengen (Hassidic gathering) would be broadcast live through a phone-line hook-up to 1,000 Hassidim gathered in the village of Kfar Chabad, Israel.

This early work done by a handful of yeshivah students in Brooklyn would ultimately serve as a catalyst for the Chabad movement’s expansion across the world of popular and digital media. It sowed the seeds for dozens of future Chabad-led projects, including the earliest roots of what has become the largest Jewish-content website to date: Chabad.org.

‘Publicity Through the Radio’

The need to promulgate Jewish thought and teachings via modern technology has deep roots in Jewish history. The mention of Jews involved in the nascent art of printing in Europe pre-dates Gutenberg and the Hebrew texts of Rashi’s commentary on the Torah, as well as the halachic treatise the Arba’ah Turim, which dates to 1475, making them Incunabula—the earliest works of the printed word.

In the 1940s, enterprising Chabad Hassidim in America and Israel began discussing Judaism on the radio. Among those shows were lectures on the Tanya (the seminal work of Chabad philosophy), begun in January 1960 on WEVD, The Forward’s Yiddish radio station.

The Jerusalem hub: The hook-up from New York would be rebroadcast from here to cities throughout Israel.

The Jerusalem hub: The hook-up from New York would be rebroadcast from here to cities throughout Israel.

The Rebbe encouraged the endeavor shortly after it began, drawing parallels to the Zohar’s reflection on the wellsprings of Divine and secular knowledge as a precursor to the Messianic era: “There is publicity through writing and print . . . there is publicity through speech . . . but the possibility of publicity through the radio is doubly advantageous. . . . The voice does not weaken, but reaches the ends of the earth with the same vigor with which it left the mouth of the speaker.”

“The audio equipment kept picking up radio waves from a local French channel and the audio was rather tinny, but to us, it was amazing. We were on a high!”

As the Rebbe’s emissaries traveled around the world—founding Jewish communities from Los Angeles to London to Melbourne, Australia—the demand to hear the Rebbe’s talks increased. Though his talks were transcribed and printed in pamphlets, and unofficial reel-to-reel recordings were swapped among friends, Jewish communities around the world yearned to take part in the farbrengens in real time.

The idea of broadcasting the Rebbe’s weekday talks was broached as early as 1959 as an extension of the radio broadcasts on Tanya and other Hassidic works by Rabbi Yonah Eidelkopf in Israel. The Rebbe rejected then, saying “the time has not yet come.”

In the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Rebbe’s leadership, yeshivah students in Israel, unable to fly to New York, broached the idea of creating a phone hook-up with the yeshivah’s staff. The Rebbe was approached, and permission was granted. The talks would be heard around the world.

Hassidic Hackers

The original broadcast was arranged by three Israeli yeshivah students, all in their 20s, who were studying in Brooklyn. Mulik Rivkin, Chaim Boruch Halberstam and Meni Wolff showed an innate technical aptitude, as well as the dedication to set the project up in the evenings and early mornings before the talk.

Their first task was to find a place in 770 to serve as command central, their center for operations. One of the small rooms near the back of the long corridor that forms the spine of 770 had a small window that looked down on the large synagogue beneath it, and more critically, had a phone line.

After the successful broadcast to Israel, other communities clamored to take part in future phone “hook-ups.” Yonasan Hackner, for example, was an English student studying in the Chabad yeshivah in the Parisian suburb of Brunoy, France. “As soon as we heard about the hook-ups,” he recalls, “we immediately started thinking about how we could have them as well.”

Wolff, right, and Chaim Baruch Halberstam working on the January broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

Wolff, right, and Chaim Baruch Halberstam working on the January broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

The broadcast set the stage for future technology. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

The broadcast set the stage for future technology. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

Eliezer Kalman Tiefenbrun, a local artist, began experimenting with HAM Radio and other technologies to try and bring the “hook-up” in London. He reached out Hackner for technical advice.

Together, they cold-called Halberstam in New York and began making plans to broadcast the Rebbe’s talk a month later—on Purim—in London.

In the era before Periscope, Skype, VoIP, or even satellite or Cable TV, such actions were nothing short of revolutionary.

Back then, phones in the United States (not merely the line, but the hardware itself) were owned by the communications conglomerate Bell System. In England and Israel, as well as elsewhere abroad, the phone lines were run by the national post-office system. Many aspects of phone utilization were highly regimented and mired in bureaucracy. Long-distance calls, for instance, had to be arranged in advance with the phone company, booking time beforehand with an operator. And the fee was considered prohibitively expensive, with a direct call to Israel costing $3.50 a minute in 1970.

At the same time, the 1970s were considered the “Golden Age of Phreaking”—the exploratory phone “hacking” at the cutting edge of communications. Meeting at homebrew computer clubs, future tech luminaries such as Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, all had their start at this rudimentary form of hacking.

The second hook-up, March 22, 1970, on Purim. Additional phone lines were run from other offices, as well as from neighboring buildings, to make the calls to Israel, Montreal, London and France possible. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

The second hook-up, March 22, 1970, on Purim. Additional phone lines were run from other offices, as well as from neighboring buildings, to make the calls to Israel, Montreal, London and France possible. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

It was in this cultural milieu that a handful of Hassidic hackers sought to cobble together a working phone system to transmit the Rebbe’s talks live across the globe.

That said, Halberstam and Hackner had a number of technological hurdles to address. Even after securing the funds and booking long-distance time with an operator, they needed to ensure that the audio could be played clearly to the groups assembling in London. In addition, Hackner would be returning to France for yeshivah, so the decision was made to transmit London’s hook-up to there as well.

Hackner approached a telephone agent for advice, who said that while it technically possible to attach a phone line directly into a speaker, it wasn’t officially allowed.

Afraid to take apart the phone, Hackner and Halberstam experimented with various means of connecting microphones to the phone’s speakers. Talking long-distance, they bandied about ideas across the Atlantic for days on end and late into the night. “We had teams of yeshivah students in Montreal, South Africa—all over the world trying to build a better hook-up system,” says Hackner.

view-of-the-18-elul-farbrengen

View of the 18 Elul farbrengen from WLCC’s window to the main synagogue in 770, Sept. 13, 1976 (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

Initial attempts included using ACE bandages and even sink plungers to join the two.

“When I finally did take apart my phone,” recalls Hackner, “I was shaking.” In the end, they created a system that hardwired the signal from the phone into local sound systems.

In order to transmit the call further, a phone in one of the London Chabad House offices was left off the hook to pick up the audio playing on the building’s intercom.

For the actual Purim talk, Hackner was back in Brunoy. Sound equipment was sourced in Paris, and given the six-hour time difference between London and New York, late that night the students gathered in the yeshivah’s study hall.

“The audio equipment kept picking up radio waves from a local French channel, and the audio was rather tinny,” recalls Hackner, “but to us, it was amazing. We were on a high!”

Jewish communities in London, Israel, France and Montreal had been able to unite with the events taking place in Brooklyn, N.Y.

From left: Rabbis Chaim Boruch Halberstam, Yosef Yitzchak (Y.Y.) Kazen and Yonasan Hackner at work in WLCC, Nov. 27, 1980 (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

From left: Rabbis Chaim Boruch Halberstam, Yosef Yitzchak (Y.Y.) Kazen and Yonasan Hackner at work in WLCC, Nov. 27, 1980 (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

‘On the Phone All Night’

After that, additional communities expressed interest in joining. Regional hubs were quickly set up, so that the connection from London to New York could be routed to such cities as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow, as well as to France and Israel, where it would be rebroadcast to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Kiryat Malakhi in the south and beyond. In time, the office in London routed three-quarters of the hook-ups, including lines to South Africa and Australia.

Each community was responsible for raising funds to cover their hook-up, as well as towards general operating expenses. A six-hour farbrengen then could cost upwards of $1,250 (the equivalent of about $7,800 today) and would only begin at 1 o’clock in the morning in London.

On one occasion, Hackner recalls a bewildered English operator sitting until 6 a.m., trying to figure out why people in London were taking part in a seemingly one-way call to New York.

“Whenever the Rebbe would pause from speaking,” says Hackner, “the operator would ask us if the call was over. We told him to read a book or take a nap—that we’d be on the phone all night.”

Phone trees were even set up in larger communities in Israel, London and France to alert people to “surprise” talks by the Rebbe.

A phone tree to alert residents in Paris about live hook-ups from Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. Due to the time difference, Chassidim overseas wishing to take part would have to wake up late at night to listen in.

A phone tree to alert residents in Paris about live hook-ups from Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. Due to the time difference, Chassidim overseas wishing to take part would have to wake up late at night to listen in.

On Oct. 6, 1970, a new level of innovation was attempted as well: A two-way line was established, allowing the Chassidim gathered in Kfar Chabad not only to hear the Rebbe speak, but respond to his toast of l’chaim as well.

Halberstam in New York continued to expand the infrastructure to operate the hook-ups. Dubbing the operation “World Lubavitch Communications Center”—with the acronym WLCC, and the tagline “spreading Judaism via all means of audio and visual communications”—additional phone lines were added to the room. By the end of 1970, eights lines were set up to broadcast the talks.

“The actual room still had only one physical line,” reports Halberstam. “In order to meet the sudden demand, wires were run from around the building and even from neighboring homes.”

Some 420 phone lines were ultimately run from the phone company directly into WLCC. In turn, these lines served as regional hubs to hundreds of other countries, cities, communities and private homes.

In 1972, an equalized phone line integrating radio-quality audio was installed, allowing a team of translators to give a simultaneous running translation during the Rebbe’s public weekday talks in as many as four languages over shortwave radio. The lines had the added benefit of potentially allowing the Rebbe’s talks to be broadcast over the radio.

“The Rebbe told us that he wasn’t yet ready for his public talks to be broadcast on the radio,” said Halberstam. A year later, however, the Rebbe consented.

Soon, the Rebbe’s weekday farbrengens, in addition to radio shows hosted by Rabbis J.J. Hecht and Yosef Wineberg, were broadcast over the radio on time purchased from WEVD. The radio broadcasts happened so frequently that ultimately, the mixing was done by the staff of WLCC and sent directly to WEVD’s offices at 770 Broadway. The room was also put to use during Jewish Educational Media’s live satellite broadcasts of farbrengens, and the “Chanukah Live” broadcasts in the 1980s and ’90s.

Spreading Light Around the World

Beginning in the 1980s, the “hook-up” room went through vast technological innovation.

In 1982, an automated system was built by Halberstam to directly connect people calling in to the live feed, without the need to manually connect the lines. Until that point, if a call was dropped or disconnected, the line would remain open in WLCC, effectively making it impossible to dial back in. Halberstam did the research, investigating various options used by telecommunications firms, and developed a method incorporating a password system. It also included 100 lines for on-demand call-in Torah lectures, as well as video and audio equipment to record and copy the events in the Rebbe’s court.

Rabbi JJ Hecht reads from his notes during a live running English translation of the Rebbe’s Yiddish talks at a farbrengen. The translation, later joined by others in Hebrew, French and Russian, was broadcast over shortwave radio. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

Rabbi JJ Hecht reads from his notes during a live running English translation of the Rebbe’s Yiddish talks at a farbrengen. The translation, later joined by others in Hebrew, French and Russian, was broadcast over shortwave radio. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

By 1992, requests for additional phone lines came into the phone company so frequently that when work was being done on a nearby street, some 500 potential lines, in addition to fiber-optic cables, were run directly to 770. In total, 420 lines were ultimately installed, reaching 600 locations around the world.

“It was a massive undertaking,” acknowledges Halberstam. To meet the demand, additional staff members were hired. Among them was Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (Y.Y.) Kazen, who began collecting and cataloging private recordings of the Rebbe’s earlier talks.

Rabbi JJ Hecht talks on the radio in WLCC’s office, March 1989. The show was broadcast on “The Forward’s” WEVD station. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

Rabbi JJ Hecht talks on the radio in WLCC’s office, March 1989. The show was broadcast on “The Forward’s” WEVD station. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

WLCC served as the de facto communications hub for the Chabad movement—not only broadcasting the Rebbe’s public talks to hundreds of communities around the world, but also documenting the day-to-day happenings of the Rebbe’s court. Remote-control cameras were installed to capture people meeting the Rebbe to receive “Sunday Dollars,” and a cadre of microphones was purchased to record the Rebbe’s various talks, no matter where they took place in the synagogue.

During farbrengens, each segment would be recorded immediately and copied to tapes, allowing people to purchase tapes of the talk as soon as it had ended.

WLCC also served as a virtual incubator for many of the Chabad movement’s future forays in media and communications. The work of Eli Wiensbacher—creating phone hotlines for on-demand Torah classes—continues at the Heichal Menachem center in New York; the audio and video recordings of the Rebbe’ talks have been incorporated into Jewish Educational Media’s central archive; and the pioneering work of Kazen on early message boards would evolve into the Chabad.org website in 1993.

In recent years, the room has been re-imagined as a visitor center for the thousands of people who tour 770 every year.

Halberstam still works in the room, welcoming guests and allowing them to explore artifacts from video and audio, past and present.

“We greet hundreds of people each week,” he says. “The room continues to serve as a way of uniting communities from around the world. It’s the Chabad House for 770.”

Though retrofitted with a glass display case and computer equipment, the original switchboards and phone systems still remain.

Reflecting on the room, Hackner recalls: “It was a wonderful sight to behold. All of the switches would be lit and flipped, so it glowed like it was Chanukah in July . . . and you just knew that from this little room, such a powerful message was going out to the entire world.”

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

Rabbi Halberstam shows some of the custom-built computer hardware installed in the early 1990s. (Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

Rabbi Halberstam shows some of the custom-built computer hardware installed in the early 1990s. (Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

Chabad.org

NYC Lawmakers, Educators and Advocates Calls for Halal, Kosher Public School Lunch Options

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Political, civic and religious leaders from across the spectrum are uniting in a groundbreaking effort to secure school lunch options that meet the religious dietary requirements of Muslim and Jewish students in New York City’s public schools.

Lawmakers and advocacy groups will host a gathering at the steps of City Hall in Manhattan at 12 noon on Tuesday (Sept. 6) calling for lawmakers to support Senate Bill S1032.

The measure, sponsored by New York State Senator Tony Avella (D-Queens) would ensure the availability of Halal and Kosher lunch options for every New York City public school with 25 percent or more students from a faith community with dietary restrictions.

“The population of residents in cities like New York City who practice a religious faith with specific dietary restrictions is rising,” he noted. “Offering students these types of food options during lunch not only accommodates their dietary restriction but also enhances students’ awareness and respect for diversity in cultures, religions and ethnicities.”

NYS Assemblyman David Weprin said he strongly supports the proposed measure. “As the Assembly member who represents one of the most diverse districts in the city, I am glad to support any initiative the brings kosher and halal food options to our New York City public schools.”

Dr. Ivan Khan, CEO of Khan’s Tutorial, added, “We strongly support the inclusion of both halal food and kosher food in NYC public schools. It is long overdue that city and school officials are able to serve the Muslim and Jewish communities that our amazing city has to offer.”

Donald Nesbit, Executive Vice President of Local AFSCME, and founder of the Bronx Educators United for Justice organization commented that as an ESL teacher, he has seen students refuse to eat until they get home from class, “or smuggle in food from home. Not being properly nourished impacts student attention, comfort, mood and engagement. NYC Department of Education schools should offer choices in keeping with Kosher and Halal requirements. It would go a long way to show these students they are respected and accepted, not just tolerated.”

Hana Levi Julian

DNC Staff Make Fun of Jewish Congressman’s Weight Problems

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Last summer, Jerrold Nadler was New York City’s only Jewish Democratic House Member who supported President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, a point which was not lost on his opponent in last June’s primaries. Oliver Rosenberg, a Yeshiva University graduate and an orthodox Jew, argued that the Iran vote showed Nadler as being out of touch with his voters. Nadler, 69, won his primary election in a landslide, with Obama’s endorsement. But neither his crucial vote on the deal nor his firm hold on his own district have earned Nadler the respect of the Democratic National Committee staffers, the same folks who conspired with ousted DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz against candidate Bernie Sanders.

It all had to do with Congressman Nadler’s girth. In 2002 and 2003, Nadler underwent laparoscopic duodenal switch surgery, which helped him lose more than 100 pounds. But over the years all the weight came back, as often happens, unfortunately, with extreme diets and other dramatic measures. Now the NY Post has discovered among the thousands of DNC emails released by WikiLeaks last month an exchange that referred to Nadler in terms that might change his vote should another Iran deal come around.

It began with a mid-May request from Nadler’s office to attend an Obama fundraiser on June 8 at the home of Kenneth Lerer, the former chairman and co-founder of The Huffington Post, Managing Director of Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and Chairman of Betaworks and BuzzFeed. Lerer lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which means he might be a constituent of Nadler’s, whose district stretches from the Upper West Side down through Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, SoHo, Greenwich Village, TriBeCa, the Financial District and Battery Park City, and over to Brooklyn, where it includes parts of Borough Park, Kensington, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Gravesend.

“Do you really want Nadler there?” then DNC national finance director Jordan Kaplan asked the White House in the exposed email.

Presidential aide Bobby Schmuck wrote back that President Obama wanted Nadler to attend the fundraiser, but without a guest. He emailed: “No +1.”

At which point DNC staffer Zachary Allen mocked Nadler’s weight problem. Here’s the May 18 email exchange, courtesy of Wikileaks via the NY Post:

Allen: Homeboy is NOT little.

Kaplan: I thought he got his tummy tucked.

Allen: He did, but like [Gov. Chris] Christie it all came back.

One day later, Zach emailed Kaplan about Nadler: “He was petitioning on my corner the other day and I thanked him for supporting the Iran deal and he bear hugged me. I kinda love him.”

Gotta’ love those bears.

And another day later (sifting through Wikileaks emails is like eating peanuts, you just can’t stop) Zach emailed Jordan Kaplan—who has since stepped down, mired in the Wasserman Schultz scandal: “Are we back to the point where I can say I love you? Because I’d like to.”

And Kaplan emailed back: “I love you too. No homo. Phew.”

So now when they ask you if you think the DNC (and the White House) is being run by children, you can answer with certainty, well, maybe not children, but teenagers, for sure. But no homo. Phew.

JNi.Media

More Than 100,000 Students in NY Jewish Day Schools, Yeshivot

Friday, August 19th, 2016

The student population in New York City Jewish day schools and yeshivot has broken the 100,000 ceiling, according to data released by the New York State Department of Education covering grades K-12 for the 2015-2016 school year.

There are 101,120 students now enrolled in Jewish schools in New York City alone: 7.7 percent of the total student population in the city.

Other non-public schools in the city have enrolled a total 137,283 students.
Together, the two populations comprise 18 percent of the total New York City student population of 1,312,393 in grades K-12.

Hana Levi Julian

NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton Resigns

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has resigned his post effective September 16. “It’s now time to move on,” he said.

Bratton is leaving to take a “really good job” as a security consultant with the Teneo firm in the private sector, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday afternoon at a news conference at City Hall.

NYPD Police Chief James P. O’Neill will replace Bratton, whose career in public service has spanned 45 years.

Bratton also served as police commissioner under former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Bratton also served in Boston and Los Angeles, as a police commander in both cities.

Bratton was the keynote speaker at the first National Conference on Personal Security in Jerusalem in May 2014.

“We are fortunate in the United States and Israel to live in the world’s two strongest democracies,” he said at that time. “In a democracy, the first obligation of government is public safety.”

Hana Levi Julian

Jerusalem Mayor to Avoid Thursday’s Pride Parade While Securing Its Path

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

A year ago this month, Ishai Schlussel, a known Haredi criminal who had just been released from jail after serving time for attempted murder in the 2005 gay pride parade in Jerusalem, was allowed by a negligent police to attack the 2015 gay parade, where he finally managed to murder a teen girl, Shira Banki, and six others. And so the 2016 Jerusalem gay pride parade has naturally become a kind of Selma march to condemn hate and violence, attracting thousands. But Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced that he would not march in this likely the most publicized gay parade in Israel’s history.

Barkat told the media on Wednesday that he supports the rights of gay people to parade in his city, and that he plans to “lay down a flower” on the spot where young Shira Banki was murdered, because he fiercely objects to anyone using violence in a political debate. But at the same time Barkat still feels that the gay pride parade is a bad idea in Jerusalem, because it needlessly offends hundreds of thousands of religious people in the city.

It was a complex decision by the mayor of the most important city in Israel, in the midst of a political environment that does not tolerate complexity and nuance. And, obviously, Mayor Barkat’s move has already been added by many to the long list of “homophobic” political acts by “hating” Israeli public servants. But Barkat should be admired, not condemned, for his sensible decision to facilitate and provide security for the parade which he openly admits he’d rather not have in his citry.

Unlike the Tel Aviv gay pride parade, which ravenously takes after New York City, Rio and New Orleans in its all-out explicit gesticulations and exhibitionism — the Jerusalem parade is more about people walking in an orderly fashion with rainbow flags, singing and yelling out anti-hate and pro-tolerance slogans. Still, Barkat argues that he would hurt many of his residents’ feelings were he to associate himself directly with the march which promotes acts specifically prohibited by scripture.

Meanwhile, Schlussel’s mother and five of his brothers were detained on Wednesday by police, as were 11 rightwing activists. They were all warned to stay away from the parade’s route, and then released. According to Walla, as is usually the case in such business, most of the rightwing activists were not aware there was going to be a parade Thursday and thanked the cops for keeping them informed.

The fact is no one is allowed to stand where the parade is going, the sidewalks will be kept deserted by heavy police guard (of whom, presumably, 3 to 10 percent are gay). According to Jerusalem District Commandeer Major General Yoram Halevy, there will be only two points where the marchers will experience contact with the non-marching public — at the beginning and at the end. Participants will have to report to the start point, undergo security check and receive an ID tag. But the controls will be in place even earlier on: participants from outside Jerusalem will be arriving in buses and will be checked before boarding. And so, as is often the case in our self-protecting democracies these days, what was meant as a lively, vivacious exchange of ideas and, yes, insults, between excitable people, will be reduced to a safe, but quite zombie-like affair.

Which, to some extent, means that Ishai Schlussel actually defeated the gay pride parade with his despicable attack, making it less gay and less proud.

JNi.Media

3 Arrested at Holland Tunnel With Combat Gear, Weapons Cache, Driving to NYC

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Three people were arrested Tuesday morning with a large weapons cache, just before entering the Holland Tunnel on their way to New York City.

Two men in their fifties and a woman in her thirties were stopped by police on the New Jersey side of the tunnel when they were spotted in a car with a cracked windshield.

Port Authority Police initially stopped the trio at a toll plaza at around 7:40 am Eastern Time, police said. They were soon joined by agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a source said, when a search of the vehicle turned up the cache of combat gear.

The collection of combat gear included body armor (several ballistic vests), a camouflage helmet with night vision goggles, multiple rifles and handguns (some loaded), a number of knives, and several magazines filled with ammunition.

Two senior law enforcement officials told NBC 4 News the suspects were “gun enthusiasts” and had “no nexus to terror.”

The trio reportedly may be from Pennsylvania, where a police source said “gun laws are more relaxed.”

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/3-headed-to-manhattan-with-combat-gear-weapons-cache-via-holland-tunnel/2016/06/21/

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