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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Tazpit News Agency’

Ulpana Resident Bemoan Relocation Ordeal

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

In the coming days, following the High Court of Justice’s order and the Israeli Government’s decision, thirty families living in the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El will be forced to leave their homes. It is yet unclear what will happen to the families that will be evicted, or what will happen to their homes. The homes were purchased legally; the purchasers received government grants and mortgages from banks. The reason they are being forced to leave their homes is because of two Arab plaintiffs who filed a petition to the Supreme Court claiming ownership of the land on which these homes were built. As the issue of land ownership is not debated in the Supreme Court, the hearing was transferred to the Jerusalem District Court; the opening session is scheduled for July 2012. The plaintiffs have yet to prove their ownership over the land, and yet the families living in these homes are being forced to leave.

Tazpit News Agency spoke with Vardina Biton, a resident of the Ulpana neighborhood, about what she faces in the future. Vardina, 30, mother of three, had lived in her home for the past six years. She and her husband initially came from northern Israel, and decided to live in Beit El after studying at the yeshiva and in schools in the vicinity. When they purchased their home they were not aware of any issues regarding the legal status of the land. Vardina says that when they decided to live in Beit El, they felt like emissaries, living in a part of Israel with strategic and historical importance.

Since the final decision to remove them from their homes, Vardina has been coping with mixed feelings and many uncertainties. She says she has not begun to pack, even though she stands to be evicted from her home in only a few days. “I have been primarily preparing myself mentally and emotionally, trying to contain the injustice that is being done to us,” she says. “I feel much pain and frustration. A person can do right and be right, and there are other solutions other then expelling us from our homes, and yet we must endure these wrongdoings. I am a 7th grade teacher. I witness brawls between my students, and see that the girls can come to a fair solution to the problem at hand. Somehow, the government failed to do likewise, proceeding with a discriminating solution instead.”

Police and right wing activists are bracing for possible violence during the removal of the Ulpana neighborhood residents from their homes. Various options to protest the expulsion have been suggested. Vardina is ambivalent regarding the pending battle the may be waged over the houses. She believes there should be a rabbinical leadership that should decide on the nature of the struggle. She says she can understand those who are talking about violent resistance. Many people are deeply pained by the court’s decision and by the government’s conduct, feeling that a great injustice is being committed. As for herself, she says she is not a violent person and has no desire to harm anyone. She does not know how she will react when the police knock on her door and demand that she leaves her home.

After the attempt to pass the “Regulation Law” in the Knesset failed, Vardina believes there are still better ways to resolve the current predicament. She explains that as of now, no legal ownership has been proven in a court of law. The land that the homes are built on has been purchased by the current residents. The alleged Arab owner claims the land was purchased from the wrong person. “No one had malevolent intent; no one intended to steal anyone’s land,” she states. However, the High Court of Justice ruled that the houses must be evacuated and demolished. Vardina says there are other plausible options: the land can be purchased from the alleged owner or the government can declare the land state owned and offer him compensation. She feels that the court ruled hurriedly, and that the government did not work hard enough to find a proper and just solution. “The fact that I live in Beit El doesn’t make me a second rate citizen. We serve the country and pay taxes. My husband fought in the IDF during The Second Lebanon War, just weeks after his wedding. It seems that there was not a real desire to save the homes, and therefore they did not work hard enough to find a solution.”

Birthright: A Story of Identity that Keeps on Giving for One LA Executive

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Nine years ago, Traci Szymanski participated in a Birthright Israel (Taglit) trip that would forever change her perspective on the Jewish state. “I grew up always saying I was half and half, or nothing,” she told Tazpit News Agency. “My mom is Jewish and my dad is Catholic, and until I visited Israel with Taglit, I was never exactly certain how to describe my identity.”

Her first trip to Israel on the ten-day Birthright program as a 26-year-old changed all that; sparking an interest and forging a connection with a country that made her feel that she was part of a “greater community.” “Thanks to that trip, I realized how central Israel is to my sense of identity and it made me reconnect to Judaism.”

So much so that Szymanski, who is an executive in the entertainment industry based out of Lost Angeles, has been working since then to change the way young people perceive Israel. Her work in the entertainment industry in LA has allowed her to promote Israel through pop culture in a variety of projects ranging from indie and documentary films to organizing celebrity trips to the country. Working with the likes of Madonna and Demi Moore, Szymanski realized that drawing celebrities to Israel would help change the mainstream perspective of the country.

“Every meeting, every encounter is an opportunity to change someone’s conception about Israel and the Jewish people. If we work to change the misconceptions about Israel, it will help decrease the prejudice and hate that often misconstrues the reality here,” said Szymanski.

Szymanski’s latest project has been to bring a group of stars to Israel, who she describes as friends, from the cast of CSI. Cast members included Carmine Giovinazzo and AJ Buckley from CSI: NY, and Omar Benson Miller and Jonathan Togo from CSI: Miami.

Speaking at the David Citadel hotel, Jonathan Togo described his Israel experience as “Television Birthright.”

“I’ve always wanted to visit Israel. As an American Jew in Hebrew School, culturally you feel that Israel is your homeland even if you don’t necessarily celebrate the holidays,” Togo explained.

Togo, who stars as Ryan Wolfe on CSI Miami said he was particularly struck by how modernity and ancient history co-exist in the country. “On one hand, the world’s religions began here and there are thousands of years worth of history, but yet the country is socially so modern, a bastion of liberal free-thought and technology in a region surrounded by fundamentalist cultures and dictators.”

“Growing up in Massachusetts, with Plymouth Rock and the Puritan history surrounding me, I can most definitely appreciate the ancient history of Israel,” explains Togo.

“For me, coming here brings everything full circle. I went to a lot more confirmations than bar mitzvahs during my childhood in the Irish-Catholic area of Boston. To be in a place where almost everyone is Jewish is mind-blowing to me,” finishes Togo. “It just makes me appreciate my Jewish identity even more.”

This is exactly the kind of reaction Szymanski can appreciate. “I want to make a strong impact on the way young people view Israel from all cultures and faiths,” explains Szymanski.

A.J. Buckley, star of CSI: New York, explained that the trip to Israel reaffirmed his appreciation of the traditional aspects of Judeo-Christian values. Originally from Ireland and from a tight-knit Irish Catholic family, Buckley explains that what struck him most about Israelis was the “strong sense of family ties.”

“I grew up in a home where we would tell stories around the dinner table all the time,” said Buckley. “It’s where my identity developed, just listening to my mom and dad talk.”

“In Israel, I discovered that kind of life here as well, where Israelis are very centered around family, something that I think has been lost in America,” said Buckley. “It’s amazing to see how much Judaic and Christian values are similar when it comes to family being the center of life—you really feel that here.” “There is this national, collective story that parents pass to their children which really gives people their sense of identity here,” concluded Buckley.

Buckley’s CSI co-star, Omar Benson Miller, who has done extensive traveling around the world, stated that “Israel is a real jewel. I felt so accepted and I’d love to bring my mom here someday,” he said.

Israeli Startup Helping Americans Find Jobs

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

As the US economy suffers from a stagnant unemployment rate, an Israeli startup company is using innovative technology to change the way Americans search for and find jobs.

Utilizing social networking as its base, Jobsminer.com is the only job search engine that aggregates jobs in real time from social networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and more. While such social networks are generally limited to family, friends or followers, JobsMiner offers a ground-breaking means to access job opportunities hidden within the vast and relatively untamed social networking frontier.

In unlocking these hidden jobs, JobsMiner presents potential employment opportunities that otherwise would have been missed by the job seeker.

If someone for example, wants to search for potential jobs in Maine, a simple click on the website’s map of the state yields a list of jobs, ranging from office manager in Portland to registered nurse in Bangor, all drawn from various social networking sites. The job seeker can always tailor the search by specifying the job field he or she is interested in and the geographical area.

According to the company’s CEO, Ran Enoch, over 22 million Americans have used social networks to find their most recent job in 2011.

“The majority of jobseekers today use social networking,” Enoch told Tazpit News Agency in an exclusive interview.

“Ours is the first and only on-line tool that searches all social media websites for relevant jobs,” he added.

JobMiner’s social media search engine is based upon the unique technology of Makam, a leading Israeli company which has been monitoring and analyzing social media for seven years, providing services in the fields of government, security, and healthcare to thousands of users in organizations both in Israel and internationally including the US.

“The reason that we chose to launch JobsMiner in the United States is due to the current economic climate of the country and partly because of our familiarity with the market there,” explained Enoch.

“Our search engine crawls through social networks, blogs and forums, filtering out the clutter and presenting those job opportunities that are relevant to the job seeker. What we realized is that company employees many times will post about a job opening on their social networks before it even appears on the company’s website or job board. JobsMiner gets this information out to a much wider circle of people in the quickest possible way.”

Launched in February 2012, JobsMiner has already helped countless Americans locate jobs, according to Enoch.

Joyce Lain Kennedy, a Los Angeles Times syndicated Careers columnist predicts that JobsMiner “holds the potential to play a major role in the 21st century job search revolution.” She described JobsMiner in her column as “an impressive burst of creative energy to refresh your job search.”

With ten Israeli employees who oversee one million job postings per month, JobsMiner is a small start-up company located in Kiryat Ono near Tel Aviv, and is looking to expand its services.

“Following our success in the American market, we are looking at the job market in Spain right now,” said Enoch. The company is also looking elsewhere in Europe and plans to make its job service technology available in its own home country in the coming months, with the Hebrew-language system already set.

“Even with our plans to continue expanding, one thing will not change and that is we plan to always keep our services free of charge,” Enoch told Tazpit News Agency. JobsMiner provides its services for free as it generates revenue through clicks on Google advertisements on its site.

“In general, our company’s vision is to continue to help people find work across the globe,” concludes Enoch.

A Russian Refusenik Remembers Jerusalem

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

As one of the “youngest” holidays in Jewish tradition, Jerusalem Day holds a special place in the Jewish calendar today.  It marks the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War of 1967, the first time that the entire city had come under Jewish sovereignty in thousands of years.  Even before King David conquered and built his monarchy in Jerusalem over 3,000 years ago in 1000 BCE, the city has always been the most holy city in Jewish tradition.  There was never, however, an official Jewish holiday that honored the city until after June 1967.

When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, the tragic event spurred thousands of years of mourning for the sacred capital.  The remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem and hope for its rebuilding manifested itself in Jewish holidays, prayers and even on the happiest of occasions—weddings –with the groom’s breaking of the glass cup. Jews would turn and pray in the direction of Jerusalem three times a day. There were even efforts throughout history where Jewish people attempted to restore political sovereignty over the city and re-establish it as the national capital.

For Yuli Edelstein, the Minister of Diaspora and Public Affairs, who as a Russian refusnik was sentenced three years in a Soviet Labor camp, Jerusalem Day holds deep significance. Tazpit News Agency interviewed the minister in light of Jerusalem Day which falls on Sunday, May 20 (Iyar 28) this year. “I was very young when the Six Day War happened and I remember everyone around me being terribly scared,” Edelstein told Tazpit News Agency. “According to reports on Soviet radio, Israel was disappearing.”

“A close friend of the family came by to tell us that the Soviet radio reports were lies. “”I just heard that the Arab armies destroyed Israel not once, but twice!” he told my parents.”

Edelstein grew up under the repressive and restrictive policies of the Soviet Union era, which muted Jewish traditional and cultural life for decades. State-sponsored anti-Semitism also prevented Jews from working in certain government sectors and advancing in their work.

Edelstein explained that his family felt a great sense of hope now that Jerusalem had come under Israel’s hands. “We felt great relief when we heard later that Jerusalem was actually in the hands of Israel and not in the hands of the Arab armies from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. The Jews in Russia and the Ukraine were astonished that little Israel could win the war.”

“The reunification of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount in Israel’s hands, and the outcome of the Six Day War, changed the standing of Israel in the eyes of Jews across the world, but especially for the Jews in the former Soviet Union,” said Edelstein.

“For at least two million Soviet Jews, a reunited Jerusalem brought a feeling that there is a homeland and that they must start fighting for the existence of Israel. There was a whole change of attitude—one from relief to pride.”

Edelstein himself was born in Czernowitz in what is now the former Soviet Union. In 1979, he applied for an exit visa to Israel but was refused as Soviet policy rarely allowed its residents to emigrate and so Edelstein became a dissident.  As a Russian refusenik, Edelstein was actively involved in Zionist circles in Moscow and taught Hebrew secretly.  He was arrested by the KGB in 1984 on false charges of drug possession and was sentenced to three years in a grueling Soviet labor camp. He was released in 1987 and was finally allowed to immigrate to Israel with his family.

“For me, Jerusalem is more than just a capital to be proud of.  As the former Minister of Immigrant Absorption, I can say that for Jews who immigrated to Israel–from as far as Ethiopia– making aliya to Israel always meant returning to Jerusalem, to Zion.”

Discovering the Holy Land, Hollywood Style

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Sitting with AnnaLynne McCord at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel on Sunday morning, the blond actress comes off as a regular person with some well thought-out opinions, and not as Hollywood ‘celebrity’ one would expect. McCord is currently known for her role as Naomi Clark in CW’s 90210.

While her manager insists that she eat her omelet, McCord is excited to share her experience and perspective of Israel on her first trip to the country with the organization, “America’s Voices in Israel.” McCord explains that she was not afraid to travel to Israel and was excited to meet the people who experience the country every day. “I’ve heard a lot against Israel back home, but I always knew there was a lot more to this country than what I’ve read and seen in the news,” McCord told Tazpit News Agency.

“The first question that I’ve always thought about in regard to the conflict here is how much of it is a holy war?” McCord explains that she knows the Biblical history of the region well, having “grown up with the Bible” and believes that there is “no room for the world to judge Israel or anyone in this conflict.”

“I believe there are always three sides to the story–your side, my side, and the truth,” said McCord. “Until you actually live in someone else’s shoes, you can never judge.”

“With all that negative coverage about Israel, I was amazed by the resilience, human spirit and optimism that people here have facing daily turmoil. You have to come see Israel for yourself to understand this–that people can still have an amazing existence, with love and patriotism, despite all the odds.”

The one characteristic that McCord says she particularly likes about Israelis is that “they don’t care what you think, what the world thinks. As an actress, I definitely relate to that because people write mean and nice things about me all the time. I do what I have to do, no matter what the critics say. Israel does the same.”

McCord and her acting colleagues, among them Omar Epps (House), Zach Roerig (Vampire Diaries) Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds), Mekhi Phifer (8 Mile, ER), Paul Johansson (One Tree Hill), Holt McCallany (Lights Out), Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin’ Out with Mr. Cooper) were particularly impressed with Israel’s state of the art facilities for special needs/disabled children.

Peete tweeted that “this country is so ahead of ours when it comes to caring for children with autism…I’m inspired.”

The itinerary for the trip included visits to Jerusalem’s Meshi, a rehabilitation center and school for 196 children with severe neurological and muscular disabilities who receive the world’s top treatments, and the Na’Alagat Center in Old Jaffa, a theater group made up of deaf and blind people who are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Druze.

For others, the trip reinforced the spiritual dimensions of the Holy Land. Omar Epps, on his second visit to Israel with America’s Voices in Israel, explained that it was the country’s “rich history, culture, people and energies” that drew him back. “For me personally, the spiritual significance of this place hits me to the core. The fact that the world’s three ancient religions meet in one place makes the holiness of this land so unique,” said Epps. “I’m bringing my kids here next time to experience this land together with my wife.”

Even the Dead Sea took on religious significance when Mekhi Phifer tweeted jokingly before the group’s descent to the world’s lowest elevation on land that he “might even get baptized in the Dead Sea.”

Visits and tours to Masada, the Golan Heights, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem’s Old City and Christian sites including Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Geinosar and the Church of Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem, also left strong impressions on the stars.

“I would love to come back here to film a movie someday,” said Holt McCallany, Hollywood actor, writer and producer, who starred in Fox’s Lights Out.” It was amazing to be able visualize all these stories and settings.”

At the farewell dinner last night, Mekhi Phifer thanked Rabbi Irwin Katsof, director of America’s Voices in Israel for organizing the week-long trip. “It’s been a privilege to be enveloped in your culture,” Phifer emotionally told Katsof.

Rabbi Irwin Katsof has been involved in bringing missions to Israel for the past 20 years and today directs America’s Voices in Israel founded in 2001 and part of the Conference of Presidents Major American Jewish Organizations. He is a businessman, educator, author and successful entrepreneur, who has brought the likes of Howard Shultz, Starbucks founder, Lady Margaret Thatcher, and others to Israel.

Katsof explains that his missions entail a no-strings attached rule. “The groups are presented with the facts, and have the opportunity to meet with Israelis across the spectrum. They come to their own conclusions about the country.”

May’s trip was a co-operative effort between the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Ministries of Tourism and Foreign Affairs, El Al Israel Airlines, and the Jerusalem Inbal Hotel.

For Israelis who caught a glimpse of the stars, excitement ensued as requests for photos and autographs were readily answered by the actors and actresses. The more well-known of the group, AnnaLynne McCord and Zach Roerig, found themselves posing with countless starstruck teenagers at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel.

“It’s a bit overwhelming,” said Zach Roerig. ‘I never expected so many fans in this region of the world.”

Local Officers Take Initiative to Save lives on the Road

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The phenomenon of tired drivers is common and very dangerous, especially on Lag Ba’Omer, when thousands of people return from an all-night event at the grave site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at Meron in Northern Israel.

To properly combat this problem, police officers from the Jordan Valley region, in conjunction with volunteers and the local municipality, have initiated a stop-over refreshment station on one of the main routes from Meron. The aim is to identify tired drivers and enable them to freshen up. They are offered beverages and light refreshments, a place to rest, wipes to cool themselves and various materials on safe driving. The station is open throughout the day.

This is the second year the station is operating. It has great significance when looking back at previous accidents that occurred on Lag Ba’Omer, especially the one in 2009 in which five passengers were killed in a head-on collision with a bus. It is assumed that the driver fell asleep on the way back from Meron.

The police officers volunteered to run this station to minimize such occurrences. Chezi, one of the volunteers on site, told Tazpit News Agency that thousands of cars come through the check point, and all drivers are invited to pull over and freshen up; the drivers admit that they are fatigued to the point that they are practically sleeping at the wheel. He told of one incident in which a driver was basically asleep, but refused to pull over. His wife, sitting in the back seat, began to shout at him, accusing him of driving as if he was inebriated. He finally agreed to stop for a rest, and that may have prevented another accident, saving lives.

“This is not the first year the station is active”, Chezi said, “The drivers are used to finding us here on Lag Ba’Omer. Last year we were successful in completely preventing car accidents on this route, and we hope to be successful this year as well. It’s important for the police officers that drivers maintain their well-being”.

A First Since Hamas Rule: Gaza Has A Waitress

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

For the first time in Gaza, since Hamas seized control in 2007, a woman has been allowed to work as a waitress in a restaurant, serving men food and drinks. Ranad al-Ghozz, 24, from Gaza City recently made local media headlines in Gaza, when she began working at the coastal A-Salam restaurant last month.

The majority of Gaza women cannot be found in the workplace as traditional norms are against women working out of the house. If women do work, it is in the public sector specializing in education and health fields.

Hamas, the religious Palestinian Sunni Islamic political party rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood, basing its governance upon Islamic fundamentalism, has passed laws that curb women’s status and rights since its takeover of Gaza. Women are not allowed to ride motor scooters and hairdressers for women are banned in Gaza.

Twenty-year-old Asmahan Nasser also works as a waitress at the upscale Al-Deira hotel, where she must wear a hijab uniform. According to a report in Haaretz, Nasser says she must deal not only with disapproving male patrons, but also disapproving women as well. In one incident, a woman patron left in protest of the hotel’s employment of a waitress and refused to allow Nasser to bring her coffee.

Al-Ghozz says she ignores comments made by patrons critical of her status as a woman worker. She began working in waitressing when her father fell ill in order to help her family. “But from the start I enjoyed the work, and I decided on my own volition to continue in this profession,” she said. She previously worked at a restaurant where she was allowed to serve only women.

In the past, Hamas’s Islamic Endowment Ministry has deployed a special committee known as the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice to enforce Muslim codes of behavior. Members preach at public places to warn of the dangers of immodest dress, card playing and dating. In 2009, Bloomberg reported that Hamas legislator Yunis Al-Astal, explained that Hamas especially targets young people “to be more correctly Islamic.”

According to an article in Beirut’s Al Akhbar, the Islamic dress code of veil or hijab is imposed on Gaza’s women who are considered weak, both in class and gender. The author Doha Shams, writes that “in plush neighborhoods, where the wealthy live, only religious women need to wear the hijab.”

Furthermore, Even Christians female students attending Gaza’s Islamic University must cover their heads and wear the “jelbab” a full-length gown. Those who do not comply can face hostile consequences.

It remains to be seen if Hamas will attempt to stop the small number of female professionals working in non-traditional fields such as restaurants.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/eye-on-palestine/for-the-first-time-since-hamas-rule-gaza-restaurant-employs-a-waitress/2012/05/10/

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