Iran To Threaten Israel

According to the Irna News Agency, Iran hanged Ali Akbar Siadat, an Iranian citizen, inside Tehran’s Evin prison, after finding him guilty of spying for Mossad.

Siadat was first arrested in 2008, while trying to leave Iran with his wife.

Siadat “confessed that he had transferred information to Mossad about Iran’s military activities” reported Irna, adding that he had “received $60,000 to give classified information to the Zionist regime.”

According to the accusations he was providing information about missiles, air crashes, fighter jets, training flights and military bases.

Allegedly, he met his contacts from Mossad during trips he took to Thailand, Turkey and the Netherlands.

In 2008, Ali Ashtari, an Iranian telecoms engineer, was hanged after being convicted of spying for Mossad. According to Irna, a second man, Ali Saremi, was also hanged on Tuesday. Saremi, 63, was alleged to be a member of the opposition group, People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), considered by Tehran to be a terrorist organization. Saremi had been arrested several times since 1983. He spent a total of 24 years in prison on various offenses of the shah and clerical rule.

Authorities say that when he was arrested in 2007, for the final time, they found CDs, photos and hand-written documents in his house, concerning the PMOI.

In related news, the Iran regime has been subjected to four rounds of sanctions by United Nations Security Council in relation to its resolute nuclear program.

Iran’s nuclear program began in 1974, before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, with plans to build a nuclear power station at Bushehr with the help of Germany. The plan was abandoned during the revolution, but renewed in the 1990, when Tehran signed an agreement with Russia.

In December of 2007, Moscow began delivering canisters of enriched uranium.

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Was the Whitehouse Prepared to Give Soviet Jewry the KISS-inger of Death?

Henry Kissinger recently apologized for comments made to former-president Richard Nixon in 1973, saying it wouldn’t be an American concern if the Soviet Union sent its Jews to the gas chambers.

Kissinger also forgives Nixon for anti-Semitic comments made, about him, behind his own back.

The recent apology, to Jews (I guess), appeared in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post that appeared on its website Dec. 24 but is dated Dec. 26.

The recently released remarks, recorded in the Oval Office, were taken out of context, wrote Kissinger:

“For someone who lost in the Holocaust many members of my immediate family and a large proportion of those with whom I grew up, it is hurtful to see an out-of-context remark being taken so contrary to its intentions and to my convictions, which were profoundly shaped by these events,” Kissinger wrote.”References to gas chambers have no place in political discourse, and I am sorry I made that remark 37 years ago.”

Kissinger made the remarks after a meeting he and Nixon had with then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir on March 1, 1973 in which Meir pleads for the United States to put pressure on the Soviet Union to release their Jews. Kissinger and Nixon, then the secretary of state, dismiss the plea after Meir leaves.

Kissinger is reported as saying on the tapes:

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy…And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

To which Nixon replies:

“I know. We can’t blow up the world because of it.”

Six months later, during the Yom Kippur War, Nixon rejected Kissinger’s advice to delay an airlift of arms to Israel as a means of setting up an Egypt confident enough to pursue peace.

Kissinger writes in the Washington Post piece that his comments were not a “policy statement,” but were made in reply to a request by Nixon that he attempt to encourage various vocal senators to agree to stick with mum diplomacy in order to get Jews out of the Soviet Union.

Kissinger defends his statement and policy by saying that a silent diplomacy about Soviet Union Jews, was setting an Egyptian peace strategy in place:

“The issue became public because of the success of our Middle East policy when Egypt evicted Soviet advisers. To restore its relations with Cairo, the Soviet Union put a tax on Jewish emigration. There was no Jackson-Vanik Amendment until there was a successful emigration effort.”

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The Current State and Future of Israeli/American Business Alliances

In light of its geopolitical under-dog status, Israel’s global reputation for her cutting-edge high-tech industry continues to ripen.

Israeli StartupsJewish Ideas Daily recently released a report exploring “The drivers behind Israel’s innovative impulse, drawing in part on a recent series of panel discussions sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.” We will also take a glance at the partnerships Israeli companies have forged with U.S. companies; and the causes of the painful adjustment period being faced today by the Israeli venture capital business.

Today, Israel has the second largest number of start-up firms in the world, and the largest number of Nasdaq-listed companies outside North America. Panelists at a conference which happened recently in Washington, D.C., called, “The United States and Israel: Building Business Through Innovation,” explored the issues contributing to innovation in Israel, while debating what has helped and hindered the Jewish Country’s move to be a hotbed of global entrepreneurship.

The fact is hundreds of U.S. and Israeli companies have formed alliances in recent years, while many more partnerships are in the works. The relationships are fueled by a nature of quid prop quo. The Israelis get funding, marketing expertise, job growth and better access to the North American market; while the Americans benefit on the job front and through increased market access. They also reap savings in development and production and have an opportunity to tap into Israel’s talent for innovation.

Once acclaimed in Israel for its ability to launch a rich stream of high-tech start-ups, the VC industry has been injured lately on two fronts: Firms in the sector are not able to raise money for new funds, and they cannot exit easily from existing investments via IPOs. Is this painful squeeze merely part of a healthy cycle or is it representative of something with more severe implications?

“The doomsday scenario, according to some industry experts, is that future high-tech start-ups will not need the VC industry as much as before.”

Wrote a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania who attended the conference.

Who’s Kicking Ass

One company to lookout for is Gazit Globe. Considered among the world’s top real estate investment multinationals, the firm is listed on the Tel Aviv stock exchange. They operate in some 20 countries and own or operate 6.3 million square meters of space spread over more than 650 properties.

In United States, Gazit’s investment vehicles include Equity one, a real estate investment trust which focuses on high quality retail properties. Gazit’s total asset value exceeds $15 billion. Gazit’s chairman and founder, Chaim Katzman, spoke recently with Wharton real estate professor, Peter Linneman, and Knowledge@Wharton about the firm’s origins, and a bit about his personal management philosophy.

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Libya’s War on Zionism

A WikiLeaks cable revealed that Libyan authorities adopted “repugnant anti-Semitic tactics” against the Marks & Spencer store in Tripoli, in an effort to have the store closed and drive the British company out of the country.

The leaked memos, sent from the US Embassy in Tripoli, show that the anti-Semitic campaign became so violent that American officials were warned by Libyan government insiders that at least one high-ranking businessman, the Marks & Spencer franchiser, could be involved in a “fatal car accident”.

Marks & SpencerA source from the General Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry told an American contact that M&S was:

“well-known among Libyans and other Arab and Muslim peoples for its strong support of Israeli occupation of Palestine and the huge funds it provides for killing of Palestinians and constructing of illegal settlements in occupied Palestine…The very mentioning of Marks and Spencer is considered by Libyans as an insult to their national feelings and an attack on their national feelings the source clarified.”

The US Embassy warned Washington back in 2008 that attacks on the British retailer by Libyan officials “at the highest levels” risked causing irretrievable damage to bilateral ties with the UK.

The British Guardian quoted the memos, describing:

“The ongoing drama surrounding efforts by the UK government and investors to keep open the Marks & Spencer retail store in Tripoli, and a campaign by some Libyan government officials to close it.”

Not long after the store was launched, it was subjected to what the cable described as “persistent anti-Semitic rhetoric” by the Libyan government.

The store was closed temporarily by Libyan authorities at least twice, and employees were repeatedly taken in for questioning and put under “close scrutiny” by security officials who, the ambassador warned, were used as a “strongarm adjunct in this political play”.

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The Portion: Vayechi

www.tjctv.com In the final portion of the Book of Genesis, Jacob bestows his final blessings upon his sons, setting the tone for what will become the Twelve — or, as we learn, thirteen — Tribes of Israel. This episode features insights from Judaic scholars Wendy Amsellem of the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education and Prof. Yitzhak Berger of Hunter College. Complete episodes available only on TJC, a subscription cable channel. More info at www.tjctv.com.

TJC’s The Salon Episode 09 Promo

www.tjctv.com Jewish women discuss: the pay gap at Jewish organizations, Natalie Portman’s controversial role in “Black Swan,” Jewish women in the boxing ring, and does a new modesty handbook go too far? Hosted by Forward editor Jane Eisner, with Mediaite.com’s Rachel Sklar, and featuring Rachel Shukert (“Everything Is Going to Be Great”), Binnie Klein (“Blows to the Head”), and Shifra Bronznick (advancingwomen.org).

Semi-Life Sentence Handed Down to Yeshiva Students

Kadima condemned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the results of a vote on Sunday, in which the cabinet approved a plan to extend the government stipend received by Haredi Yeshiva students for five years, at least. Tzipi Livni complained Netanyahu “sold the Israeli public.” (which arguably, however, is among the prime minister’s tasks). She was referring to the prime minister’s attempt to popularize IDF service among the ultra-orthodox. Which, again, would not be the end of the world.

Fourteen ministers, including ministers from “Yisrael Beiteinu”, voted ‘yay’ on the plan. Among the eight who voted ‘nay’ were Avodah. Shas abstained.

YeshivaAccording to the plan, during the next four years, no changes will be made to the funds received by married yeshiva students who do not work and have at least three children. During the fifth year, however, the stipend for yeshiva students under the age of 29 who meet the criteria will be decreased by some 75%.

Filers of the original petition 10 years ago, the National Student Union, has accredited their movement to the “good results.”

Union head Itzik Shmuli said in a statement:

“We think these are good recommendations that will increase solidarity in our society and make it a more egalitarian one…At the same time, we expect them to be legislated in the Knesset to ensure their future implementation.”

The objective of cutting the Kollel stipend, and Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, has signed off on this, is to save money, help assimilate the Haredim into Israeli society and mainstream culture, increase IDF service among them, strengthen the work force and set an example for the nation.

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Kosher Conversations: Among Friends & Family & a Falafel Chef

   
  Kosher stamps indicate rabbinical approval. These are printed on every food item in Israel. Only a small percentage of the food consumed in Israel is sold without Kosher approval.  

Kosher food conversations hover in the background here in Israel. Hover because the definition of what is kosher means different things to different people. Hover lightly not heated debates, not bitter complaints, just a faded blurt “that’s how it is”. In it’s core, Israeli food is kosher, for secular Israelis as much as for Orthodox Israelis. The conversations hover because of what kosher has become in a modern Jewish state (it is strange and bristly issue.) To secular Jews kosher means not eating pork and keeping milk and meat separate. How separate one keeps the two is one topic of conversation. Kosher also means rabbis inspecting restaurants and shops assuring milk products are not stored together or mixed in cooking with meat. Kosher inspection is a big business for the rabbinical inspection authorities. Tamir, a small falafel stand owner started out paying 300 shekels a year for his Kosher certification. That was eight years ago. Then he sold Falafel and coffee. Basically nothing that needed inspection. He added schnitzels (fried chicken breast) to his stand, which increased his income three fold. (previously he did not have meat or milk, just vegetables which are called “parve“.) The kosher inspector raised his inspection fees by 50% every year, now reaching over 8,000 shekels a year. Tamir, pays the fees without any official complaints, what else can he do? He estimates that 15% of his clients come because he has a kosher certificate. The inspector has not shown up at his stand for five years. Even if he did show up in a surprise inspection, nothing would cause the old Falafel stand to lose it’s kosher certification.

The secular businessman lives with this hidden tax, actually more of a low level bribe. The fees goes to the rabbinical system. A system which supposedly has official government support but certainly not enough as an official state religion. [Editor: this first person description of “bribe” by the writer is his own personal opinion. This is what Israelis are saying in private. Not the blogs official stand. ] State sponsored religious services, Kosher inspection being part of it, are not a big problem for secular Israelis. Actually, by my unofficial survey, secular Israelis complain more about Kosher restaurant food being boring or bland, than about the Kosher food inspection. This view reflects the Kosher restaurants customer preferences, simply functional food no gourmet or healthy preferences. Quality and taste of food in Israeli restaurants has nothing to do with Kosher cooking observance. There are plenty of good Kosher restaurants, especially in Tel Aviv. Maybe not enough, since most are busy and probably more successful than non-Kosher restaurants. Just last month I was invited to a Kosher restaurant in Azrieli center in Tel Aviv. Mercado is a meat restaurant and we had a delightful surprise. It is off the main shopping center at the third floor, round building. See menu on REST site [HEBREW]. There are plenty of nice Kosher restaurants in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In smaller towns you need to ask around. If you know of good Kosher restaurants, leave a comment. AND ENJOY !


Now, what does Kosher has to do with secular Jewish religion in Israel? NOT MUCH ! Secular state religion for most Israelis means celebrating the Jewish holidays. Holidays and ceremonies play an important part in Israeli life. Most secular Israelis love the holidays for their specific celebrations (Seder in Passover, candle lighting in Hanukkah.) This includes very basic Kosher observance, you pretty much can not find pork unless you really go looking. You will not find cheeseburgers or any kind of sandwich with meat and cheese. Most restaurants are Kosher but also on a low level. What you notice more than anything in talking about Kosher observance is the strange gap between belief (or values) in contrast with daily practices. Israeli secular Jews still hold strong to Jewish beliefs, but daily religious observance is almost none existent (i.e. very few Israelis pray regularly.) How do you explain this? Take a look at Italians and French and their Roman Catholic state religion. This is what you see here. French for the most part identify themselves as Roman Catholics, but a very low percentage goes to Sunday mass. The same goes in other Christian states. Explaining beliefs and practices take a bit of writing, so this will be a topic to come back to again and again. Ask and comment if you are interested in this topic.