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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘property’

Russia to Possess Historic Building in Heart of Jerusalem

Monday, June 25th, 2012

The transfer of one of Jerusalem’s most prime pieces of real estate to Russia will be finalized when the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) vacates its offices, following the completion of talks between Israel and Russia on Sunday.

In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented the Sergei building and its 9-acre courtyard with gardens and fishponds in the Russian Compound as a gift to the Russian government.  He made the gesture during a visit to Moscow to persuade President Dimitry Medvedev not to sell arms to Syria and to back sanctions against Iran.  The decision to transfer the property was made by the prime minister, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.

Last year, the Agriculture Ministry and the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites evacuated their offices in the compound.  SPNI issued a request to continue working in the offices, but was denied by the Russian government.

Israel gained control of approximately 90 percent of the Russian compound in 1964, paying the Russian government $3.5 million in citrus fruits for the property due to lack of hard currency – hence the dubbing of the agreement the “Orange Deal”.

The Sergei building, not included in the sale, was completed in 1890, and served as a hotel for Russian aristocrats, royalty, and dignitaries on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was named for brother of Tzar Alexander III, Grand Duke Sergei, then President of the Imperial Russian Orthodox Palestine Society.   The property had been purchased by Tzar Alexander II in 1860 from the Ottoman Empire.

When the plan to give possession of the property to Russia was announced in 2008, opponents protested the giving over of Jerusalem heritage sites to foreign entities, and warned that Russia was not a strong enough ally to trust with the property.  Then-candidate for Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also disapproved of the plan, calling it a “dangerous precedent, giving property in the heart of Jerusalem to foreign interests.”

Russia has vowed to keep the area open to the public, and says it will restore the yard and buildings for use by Russian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem today.

The SPNI announcement comes just a day before Russian Premier Vladimir Putin’s Monday arrivalin Israel on an official state visit.  The leader is expected to meet with top Israeli officials to discuss Iran’s nuclear progress.  He will also dedicate a monument in Netanya to the valor of the Red Army in World War II.  The large stone monument consisting of a pair of white wings, an unprecedented joint-state venturebetween Israel and Russia, will also honor the more than half a million Jewish Red Army soldiers who fought in the war.

Grease Paint Rally

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Two mimes joined the protesters against the cost of living on Rothschild Boulevard in downtown Tel-Aviv last Shabbat. The protests ended in clashes with police and mass arrests. Despite Police decision to indict 37 out of the 85 protesters who were arrested, the judge ordered their release as they had no criminal records and the charges against them were not related to damage to property.

The #1 Thing You Should Know About Real Estate Investing in Israel

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

If you buy a property as an investment, there are two ways you can profit – either you sell it for more than you paid, and/or you collect rent. Let’s look at each of these and see why they often don’t work out:

Selling for a profit

If you buy a property for an investment, hoping to sell years down the line at a profit, remember, that it’s not always easy to sell an apartment. Though people talk about the dearth of housing in Israel, there are “For Sale” signs all over, even in Jerusalem. The best way to ensure a quick sale of property is to sell it at a low price, often at a loss. But even if you don’t need the money and can afford to hold onto the property, remember you have the “friction” of buying and selling in the form of taxes, lawyers’ fees, real estate agents, assessors, mortgage costs, and more.

Collecting rent

In some parts of Israel, rental income represents 2% of the value of the property. So if you’re looking at a rental apartment to provide cash flow, you haven’t found the best return. Moreover, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have renters for 12 months a year. If you presume that, on average, you’ll only be full 10 or 11 months a year, account for the fact that your income would be around 8% lower than if you were full all year round. And if you can’t rent the property out at all, then your money is tied up in a non-performing asset.

So if you are considering investing in real estate in Israel, the #1 thing that you need to know is that buying physical real estate could be a bad investment. That’s why for real estate investing, I prefer using REITs (real estate investment trusts), which trade on a stock exchange, pay dividends, are easy to buy and sell with low cost, and can be bought in the form of a mutual fund.

There are many reasons to buy property in Israel, not only financial. Some Zionists want to solidify their connection to Israel, or hope to one day retire there. Before you buy real estate (or any investment vehicle), make sure you understand your motivation and the pros and cons.

If you want to know about practical investing in Israel, sign up for my company’s investment newsletter and get a free investment ebook as a gift.

Technion Sues Microsoft for $6.5 Mil. over Intellectual Property

Monday, June 11th, 2012

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has filed a NIS 25,000,000 ($6,500,000) lawsuit against the Microsoft Corp, reports the website Calcalist.

The lawsuit, filed last week in the District Court in Petach Tikvah, alleges that Microsoft used intellectual property developed by Technion professor Ran Smorodinsky.

The extraordinary lawsuit opens: “For years, Microsoft has taken aggressive enforcement steps against anyone who held software belonging to Microsoft without legal permits, regardless of from whom and when it was purchased, their geographic location and whether they were rich or poor.”

The Technion is going up against the technology giant, citing illegal uses of technology which was developed by the institution’s staff.

This is a unique suit with which the Technion is marking its overall intent to receive a portion of intellectual property developed by its faculty.

The suit was submitted two and a half years after the state of Israel had filed a similar suit against the drug company Omrix and its founder Robert Taub, arguing that the development of “biological glue” is a product of research done by Prof. Uriel Martinovic, a state employee at the Tel-Hashomer medical center.

In 2008, Microsoft acquired the intellectual property of the startup YaData for approximately $150 million. The Technion now argues that all the intellectual products of the company resulted from research work done by Rann Smorodinsky, a full-time tenured professor in the School of Industrial Engineering.

“Intellectual property rights, technology and knowledge products belong to the Technion – like all fruits of the labor of faculty members,” reads the lawsuit.

The suit alleges that the restriction on the transfer of intellectual property did not escape the notice of the original company founders. In September 2006, the Technion gave a limited approval to Professor Smorodinsky to transfer the company’s intellectual property, provided that the counseling that he himself gave was limited areas of commercial business.

“If the request to expand the areas of counseling beyond the scope of commercial business, please fill inform us and the issue will be explored,” says the same permit.

In retrospect, the Technion now argues, the company violated the permit and engaged the professor in developing its products. Smorodinsky contacted the Technion in October 2007 to extend the permit, without success.

The Technion says that all one has to do to refute “the claim that there is no connection between the scope of Professor Smorodinsky’s area of specialty at the Technion – game theory (the study of strategic decision making) – and his activity at YaData and later at Microsoft, is to quote the professor himself.”

Microsoft Israel has issued a statement saying they were studying the suit and will respond shortly.

The Egyptian Jew Who’s Battling Coca-Cola

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

For 15 years, Egyptian-Jewish businessman Refael Bigio has been battling a goliath corporate adversary, the Coca-Cola Company. Bigio charges that Coke has been profiting from his family’s stolen property just outside Cairo.

The Bigio family’s property was expropriated by Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser in the mid-1960s during one of Egypt’s anti-Jewish purges. Over the course of a decade and a half, the Coca-Cola Company has steadfastly refused to bargain in good faith or to negotiate any fair compensation for the expropriated property, according to Bigio’s lawyers. In the company’s defense, Coke’s attorneys have defended Egypt’s anti-Jewish seizures and even those of Hitler’s Germany as confiscations that “did not violate international law.”

Coca-Cola’s refusal to even place a fair offer on the table, Bigio’s attorneys charge, stands in bitter contrast to hundreds of millions of dollars in profits derived since 1965 from the operations of Coca-Cola Egypt.

Coke’s only defense is that the theft Bigio suffered, for no reason other than he was Jewish, did not violate international law and was perfectly legal.

After 15 years, Bigio believes he is now locked in a mortal struggle, not with a beverage company, not with its powerful million-dollar attorneys, King and Spalding, but with the only man who has the authority to resolve the conflict: Muhtar Kent, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Coca-Cola Company.

“The Coca-Cola Company had clearly mistreated our family in a shameless way,” says Bigio from his current home in Montreal. “Today the ultimate responsibility lies on its chairman, Muhtar Kent. Kent needs to look at the acquisition of the El Nasr Bottling Company [ENBC], an entity which gobbled up and was merged with the industrial complex of the Bigio family property in Cairo, two bottling factories – all seized by Nasser for no other reason than we were Jews.”

He adds, “Chairman Kent needs to examine every aspect of the transaction his company undertook years before he ever became chairman. He needs to ask himself: Is it acceptable that in defense against our family’s claim, one of the arguments of the Coca-Cola legal team presented in 1997 is: ‘Seizure of Jewish citizens’ property in Nazi Germany did not violate international law.’ Mr. Kent in his current tenure and in the future will be remembered on how he resolves our case by directing his legal team to pay all due compensation long overdue to our family.”

Bigio’s attorneys, Alyza Lewin and her renowned father, Nathan Lewin, add their own measure of disgust. “It is absolutely appalling,” said Alyza Lewin, “that a company making so much money off Jewish patrons, should state that what Nasser did to the Jews – and what the Nazis did to Jews – was perfectly legal under international law. It is shocking and appalling.”

* * * * *

Ironically, as Bigio squares off against Kent over Nazi and Egyptian anti-Jewish persecution, the greatest insult may not be to average sensibilities but to the legacy of Kent’s own father, Necdet Kent.

Muhtar Kent is a Turkish Muslim. His father earned distinction as the Turkish Muslim diplomat who courageously placed his own life on the line to save Jews during World War II. The elder Kent was Turkey’s vice consul-general in Nazi-dominated Marseilles, France, between 1941 and 1944. He distributed Turkish citizenship papers to dozens of Turkish Jews living in France to save them from round-ups and deportation that would deliver them to Nazi gas chambers.

One singular act of valor by the elder Kent occurred in Marseilles one night in 1943. Nazis and French police were herding local Turkish Jews into cattle cars. Their final destination would be the gas chambers. When Kent learned of this latest roundup, he raced down to the railroad station at St. Charles. As the Jews were being loaded into the cars, Kent saw an indelible scene that seared his conscience.

“The one single memory of that evening which will never be erased from my mind,” the elder Kent related in a book on Holocaust heroism. “What I saw was incredible: cattle trucks full of people, hundreds of women and children, sobbing and screaming!” His eye was drawn to an “inscription which I saw on one of the wagons: ‘This wagon may be loaded with 20 large beasts and 500 kilograms of hay.’ And in each of these wagons, I saw almost 80 Jews pushed in one on top of another.”

Poles Unhappy with Obama’s Retraction, as Entire Polish Economy Is at Stake

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

CBS News reported that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is still “unsatisfied” with the White House apology for a comment made by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, about a “Polish death camp,” and demanded a more “explicit reaction.”

“We expect that America, in connection with this very statement, will join our efforts and help us eradicate such false and unjust phrases once and for all,” said Tusk, according to the Polish government’s website. “We always react in the same way to ignorance, lack of knowledge and ill will which lead to the distortion of history. Such phrases are especially painful for Poland – Europe’s most affected country by World War II.”

On Tuesday, while awarding a posthumous Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter, President Obama described how Karski was smuggled “into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp” to see for himself the atrocities taking place there.

Karski reported what he saw to President Roosevelt, in what Obama called “one of the first accounts of the Holocaust.”

Unfortunately, despite repeated pleas from Jewish leaders both in the U.S. and in Palestine, the Roosevelt administration did nothing to halt the shipment of Jews to the death camp, nor to disturb in any way the operation of those camps.

President Obama’s “Polish death camp” comment drew irate criticism from Polish officials, who would have preferred “German death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland,” or, simply, “Nazi death camp.”

One of the reasons Poland is so adamant regarding its historic role as victim, rather than collaborator, has to do with the possibility of being sued by Jewish Holocaust survivors for billions of dollars worth of property appropriated from Jews.

Last year, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski attacked the U.S. for its support of Jewish demands that Poland compensate Jews for property stolen from Jews during the Holocaust.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said in reaction to Sikorski’s statement that “Poland is telling many elderly pre-war landowners, including Holocaust survivors, that they have no foreseeable hope of even a small measure of justice for the assets that were seized from them.”

Justice for Poland’s Jewish victims could result in the financial ruin of the Polish state, as an enormous part of that country’s wealth used to be owned by Jews who are no longer among us.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski accused Obama of “ignorance and incompetence,” and Premier Tusk suggested Obama’s view was a “distortion of history.”

The White House issued a statement saying the president had misspoken and expressed its regrets.

But Tusk was still not satisfied.

“I am certain that our American friends are capable of a more explicit reaction than issuing a correction and the spokesperson of the White House expressing regret, and that maybe they will once and for all eliminate such errors,” he said. “It is an issue to which we cannot be indifferent, for the sake of Poland, our country and our fellow countrymen. We cannot accept such words, even if they are uttered by the head of an ally superpower.”

In his daily press briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney recited the Warsaw-approved version of history, saying the president “was referring to the Nazi death camps in German-occupied Poland.”

“As we’ve made clear, we regret the misstatement,” Carney said, adding that the error “should not detract from the clear intention to honor Mr. Karski” and other Polish citizens “who fought against the terrible tyranny of the Nazis.”

Carney said he was not aware of any plans for the president or anyone else in the administration to call the Polish Prime Minister.

Jewish-Egyptian Businessman Suing Coca-Cola for Using his Family’s Confiscated Property

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Jewish Canadian-Egyptian businessman Raphael Bigio is seeking a full U.S. appeals court to rehear his lawsuit against Coca-Cola for using his family’s property in Egypt.

Bigio and his family filed the brief Wednesday in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. He is suing the Coca-Cola Company headquartered in the United States for its use of family property in the Cairo suburbs that was confiscated by President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1965.

Bigio is hoping to settle with the beverage giant for compensation for what he alleges is substantial profit. Coca-Cola Egypt had leased the property from the family following Nasser’s purge.

A three-judge panel of the New York-based appeals court dismissed the case in March on the grounds that the complaint did not contain sufficient evidence that Coca-Cola caused or directed Coca-Cola Egypt to build additional buildings on the property.

In a news statement distributed by his attorney, the Washington firm of Lewin & Lewin, Bigio said his family’s story is “one of flagrant abuse, first by an anti-Jewish government, then by a greedy corporate Goliath.”

Coca-Cola has said that an Egyptian state-owned company, not Coca-Cola, owns the property; that it is a minority stakeholder in the company that leases the land; and that the land was purchased lawfully from the Egyptian government.

Court Delays Destruction of Ulpana Apartments

Monday, April 30th, 2012

The Supreme Court on Sunday ruled that the buildings of Givat HaUlpana in Beit El targeted for destruction because of an ownership dispute would receive a 60 day reprieve.

Located in the mountains of the Benjamin tribal region in southern Samaria, the Ulpana buildings were ordered destroyed by the Supreme Court in May, after the extreme anti-Jewish settlement group Yesh Din filed a lawsuit claiming the property had been built on Palestinian land.

Though the court demanded that the residential apartments be razed, the question of who actually owns the land has yet to be resolved in court.  Parties in Beit El have appealed to the lower court, arguing that they own the land, having bought it outright from Palestinians.

Justices Edna Arbel, Asher Grunis, and Yoram Danziger granted the stay, giving 60 days to find an alternative solution, rather than the 90 days initially requested by the government.

Approximately 550,000 Israelis live in Judea, Samaria, and the eastern part of Jerusalem.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/court-delays-destruction-of-ulpana-apartments/2012/04/30/

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