Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu politicised Holocaust remembrance services in Jerusalem recently by comparing Islamic Iran to Nazi Germany. Stepping up his campaign against the deal for Iran to cut its nuclear capability in return for the lifting of economic sanctions, Mr Netanyahu questioned whether the lessons of World War II had been heeded to never again ­appease “tyrannical regimes’’. He told a hushed crowd at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial: “As the Nazis sought to stamp out civilisation and to set the master race to rule across the earth, while wiping out the Jewish people, so does Iran seek to control the region, spread outwards and destroy the Jewish state.’’


In another swipe at the Americans who brokered the framework agreement with Iran in marathon talks, Mr Netanyahu said democratic governments had made a huge mistake in the build-up to World War II by giving in to Adolf Hitler. “We, along with many of our neighbours, are convinced that a bitter mistake has also been made now,’’ he said. President Reuven Rivlin, born in what was then British-ruled Palestine in 1939, recalled his first contact with victims of the Nazi death camps, as they arrived in Jerusalem following the German surrender in 1945.“The face and extent of the horror was exposed to us,’’ he said.


This year’s Yom HaShoah commemorations were something special: 70 years after the extermination camps were liberated, the youngest survivors of the Holocaust are also about to turn 70. Sirens wailed across Israel, bringing the country to a halt respect for the victims. Cars pulled off the road and people stood silently in the streets, heads bowed for two minutes. The evening before, thousands had packed Yad Vashem to kick off two days of national remembrance, the culmination of ceremonies around the world marking the genocide, including in Australia. The six torches lit in memory of the Jewish victims — one flame for every million killed — were carried by survivors of the Holocaust.


They ranged from Shela Altaraz, 80, a Macedonian Jew whose entire family was murdered, to Moshe Reichenberg, 87, who underwent medical experiments at the hands of the war criminal Josef Mengele in Auschwitz. Israel is home to 189,000 Holocaust victims, about half those known to have emerged from the camps and who are still alive. But the numbers are fast fading: the age of survivors is now 83.3 in Israel, ranging up to 104. Their death rate is more than 10,000 a year. Yecheskel Taler, of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims of Israel, said he feared the annual remembrance would “become another dot’’ in history as the survivors passed away.


A Holocaust survivor, he lived under the roof of a Nazi war criminal who didn’t realise he was Jewish. Describing his emotions, he said: “For me, it’s a very special and very touching day. All the feelings and all the memories are coming back. We try not to live under the cloud of the Holocaust all the time, but today we do, and it is very ­important.’’ A report released by the foundation showed that 25 per cent of Holocaust survivors were living in poverty, “a real shame’’, Professor Taler said. Until sundown, radio and television stations broadcast programs on the genocide and played sombre music, while places of entertainment were closed.


A Tel Aviv University study has shown ­violent anti-Semitic attacks soared by 38% worldwide last year. Across the world, the study logged 766 violent attacks, including “arson, vandalism or direct threats against Jewish persons or institutions”. “In this regard, 2014 has been the second-worst year of the decade, coming next after 2009,” it said. It said the highest number of incidents in a single country ­occurred in France, where there were 164 attacks in 2014 compared with 141 the previous year. France has Europe’s largest Jewish community, estimated at about 600,000. In Britain, 141 attacks were recorded, up from 95 in 2013 and Germany logged 76 in 2014, more than double the figure for 2013, said the report, which is published annually.

Source: Compiled by APN from local media reports

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The Israel Electric Company (IEC) recently decided that enough was enough and began throttling the flow of electricity to the Palestinian Authority, which for years has refused to pay its bills. While the move garnered a lot of media attention, it really was less severe than portrayed, and less punishing than many believe the Palestinian Authority deserves. What the IEC did was cut power to the “West Bank” cities of Nablus (the Biblical site of Shechem) and Jenin for a period of no more than 45 minutes. The company said it would repeat the short blackout daily until the Palestinian Authority starts paying off its nearly $500 million debt.


Palestinian officials tried to link the situation to Israel’s freezing of tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority over its unilateral diplomatic manoeuvring at the UN and the International Criminal Court. But the truth is that the electrical bills have been mounting for a very long time, with no indication that the Palestinian Authority ever intended to pay. That was especially infuriating to many Palestinians, who noted that they pay electric bills to the Palestinian Authority every month, begging the question, “Where’s the money?” “I feel like a sucker,” Nablus resident Mahmoud Arafat said “I pay my electric bills, but still suffered from the blackout.”


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that he had not ordered the blackout, and that it had been an internal decision taken by the cash-strapped IEC. Seemingly ignoring the circumstances, and the fact that the blackout lasted a mere 45 minutes, the Obama Administration expressed “concern” over the move. Many Israeli politicians have called to use the frozen Palestinian Authority tax revenues to pay the outstanding debt. But, again, the Obama Administration has put pressure on Israel not to do so, insisting that without those funds, the Palestinian Authority could collapse.


Source: Israel Today

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The Jerusalem Magistrates Court has reaffirmed that it is legal for Jews and Christians to pray atop the Temple Mount, despite violent Muslim opposition. That legal clarification came as part of a decision in the case of activist Yehudah Glick, who sued the Israel Police for banning him from the Temple Mount  after he was filmed quietly uttering prayers while visiting the holy site in 2011. Glick charged the police with failing to uphold Israel’s laws regarding freedom of religious expression. Israel’s Supreme Court had previously ruled that Jews do in fact have the right to pray in any and every place, as do adherents of all faiths, but that police could take measures to avoid violent Muslim backlashes atop the Temple Mount.


The Jerusalem court determined that the police had gone too far in its handling of Glick and other activists, and had crossed the line by impinging on Jews’ basic human rights. Glick was awarded nearly USD $150,000 in damages. His lawyer further said that the ruling meant that “starting from today, all Jews are allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. There is no longer any crime in prayer itself.” Still, many remained sceptical that non-Muslims would now be permitted to openly pray and worship atop the Temple Mount, especially after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year assured the Muslim world that Israel would maintain the status quo there.


Source: Israel Today

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Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met recently with Christian leaders, including Patriarch Theophilos III, in the Old City of Jerusalem. The meeting was organized to mark the Easter holiday, and was the first held by a sitting Israeli President at the site in 30 years. Rivlin used the opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to defend and promote equality and religious freedom: “For me, attacks on your holy places is as damaging as those on our holy places, and it shouldn’t happen,” he stated. “The State of Israel is committed to protecting the freedom of each and every one of the different religions—we will not allow abuse because of religion, and if such harm does occur, law enforcement will take care of it immediately.”


Greek Patriarch Theophilos III welcomed the President, saying “We are grateful for your visit during this season when the Christian community is celebrating the festival of Pascha (Easter).” “The close relationship between Passover (Pesach) and Easter (Pascha) is an important reminder to us all, of the deep bonds that unite the children of Abraham. Jews, Christians, and Muslims have lived here side by side for centuries, always seeking mutual understanding, for the mutual well-being in our region,” he said.


Source: Breaking Israel News

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