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Israel’s election for 19th Knesset underway
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to As the Ledger went to press on Tuesday, the election for the 19th Knesset was underway. More than 5.5 million Israelis were able to exercise their democratic right this year by casting their ballots at more than 10,000 polling stations spread all over the country. According to the Jerusalem Post, by 6 p.m. 55.5 percent of eligible voters had already cast their ballots in the election. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the Paula Ben-Gurion Elementary School in Jerusalem shortly after voting began Tuesday accompanied by his family. “I have always said the Likud-Beytenu [the joint Likud and Yisrael Beytenu Knesset candidate list] represents the entire nation, and in this case, the whole family,” he said in a press conference at the school according to Israel Hayom.
Habayit Heyehudi leader Naftali Bennett voted in his hometown of Raanana. “When I see everyone joining Habayit Hayehudi I know that something new is about to begin among the Jewish people,” he told reporters. “It feels rather strange to vote for yourself; but it is exciting and joyful,” said Yair Lapid, who heads Yesh Atid, after voting in northern Tel Aviv.
The spiritual leader of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, arrived at the polling station and, after voting, issued a blessing to Shas supporters, saying, “those who like God, may he be blessed, will rise and reach the skies.”
President Shimon Peres, who voted in Jerusalem Tuesday morning, said “Israelis were given a day off (for voting), and it represents an opportunity that encapsulates liberty — the right to vote in a free, democratic and beautiful country.”

Netanyahu congratulates Obama
Following the inauguration of President Barack Obama to his second term as the nation’s 44th president, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated him and expressed hope the two would continue to “work together.” There have been ongoing reports of disagreement between the two leaders. After being formally sworn in Sunday at the White House, Obama gave his inaugural address to 700,000 people Monday. Though he did not mention Israel, Obama emphasized his administration “will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.”
Just days ago columnist Jeffrey Goldberg reported Obama has said in private conversations that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are” when it comes to construction beyond the Green Line.
Netanyahu responded in an interview that he is “confident that President Obama understands that only a sovereign Israeli government can determine what Israel’s interests are.”

Tel Aviv among world’s top beach cities
( The travel publication Lonely Planet has named Tel Aviv as one of its top beach cities, continuing the city’s recognition as one of the world’s top destinations. Tel Aviv, known as the “White City,” placed seventh in the Lonely Planet’s review of top beach cities behind top-ranked Barcelona. Tel Aviv beat cities such as its Middle Eastern neighbor Dubai, Miami, as well as Brighton and Hove in Great Britain on the list. In response to the recognition, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said that “every potential tourist in the world knows what we all know already – that Tel Aviv-Jaffa is an amazing city, full of surprises, that is not only fun to live in, but also to visit.” Located in a region awash in tension and threats, Tel Aviv is often referred to as “the bubble” for its relative peace and progressive views. In its description of the city, Lonely Planet captured this outlook; Tel Aviv is “the total flip-side of Jerusalem, a modern Sin City on the sea, rather than an ancient Holy City on a hill.”

‘Dear Abby’ dead at 94
( Pauline Phillips, known to millions around the world for her advice column “Dear Abby,” died last week at the age of 94 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the New York Times. Born as Pauline Esther Friedman to Russian Jewish immigrant parents in Sioux City, Iowa on July 4, 1918, she was beat into the world by her twin sister Esther (“Eppie”), later known under the writing pseudonym of Ann Landers, by 17 minutes. The two sisters would go on to share an intense sibling rivalry for the rest of their lives. Pauline began her writing career under the pseudonym Abigail Van Buren in 1956 for the San Francisco Chronicle. Her advice column quickly became a hit amongst readers for their wit, humor and the sympathetic voice that she provided. Her columns addressed serious and sometimes taboo subjects that had a profound influence on the changing discourse of 20th century America. Phillips officially retired in 2000, and her daughter took over the writing of the column. It is the world’s most widely distributed column, appearing in over 1400 newspapers with a daily readership of 100 million.

French intervention in Mali may impact French Jews
( The recent French-led intervention against Islamic forces in the West African nation of Mali may lead to increased threats or attacks against the Jewish community in France. “The situation requires we raise the level of protection around our community and double the level of vigilance around
synagogues, Jewish schools, community centers and gathering places,” said a communiqué from a French-Jewish security organization, Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive  (SPCJ), the Algemeiner reported. The communiqué said that Islamic terrorist groups in France have been “agitated” by the intervention, which was launched by President François Hollande on Jan. 11. France, which has Europe’s largest Jewish community, has also garnered significant attention over the past year for a rise in antisemitism, especially after last March’s Islamist terrorist attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse that left a rabbi and three children dead.

Man who helped Sandy Hook children harassed
( Gene Rosen, a Jewish man who found and sheltered six terrified children who had run away from the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 is being harassed by phone and email by conspiracy theorists who believe that the Newtown shooting was either faked or was set up for political gain. The 69-year-old retired psychologist found the children in his driveway together with the school bus driver who had taken them away from the violence at the school. He took the children into his house and watched them until their parents and authorities arrived. Now unknown individuals have set up social media accounts in Rosen’s name, and others have uploaded spoofs to YouTube of the now well-known video in which the sobbing Rosen describes what happened. “[The children] said, ‘What are we going to do for a teacher? Our teacher is dead,” the distraught Rosen said in the video. One of these YouTube spoofs calls the clip an “audition tape” for Rosen’s TV debut.
“I don’t know what to do. I’m getting hang up calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, how much am I being paid,” Rosen told

Italian-Jewish pol to quit politics, make aliyah
( Jewish-Italian politician Fiamma Nirenstein announced she is quitting politics, returning to her journalism career and making aliya. The vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Italian Chamber of Deputies plans to apply for Israeli citizenship. “Everybody can see that unfortunately antisemitism is still growing worldwide, and Israel is the only warm homeland for the Jewish people,” she told the Italian newspaper Il
Giornale according to the Jerusalem Post.
Born in 1946 in Florence, Nirenstein has written many articles and books on the Jewish people, antisemitism and Israel. She is known in Italy and Europe for fighting terrorism and racism, as well as for her efforts to get the EU and the Italian government to ban Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps within the EU’s territories and to officially list them as terrorist organizations. She is also chairwoman of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians. “Israel is today the best country able to offer culture, sociality, democracy, morality; a country where people adopted a lifestyle simple and natural,” and where its people are united as a family in “their fight for survival, and in their great love for their country…Love for life in Israel is everywhere,” she said.

Bulgaria denies Hezbollah link to terror attack
( The Bulgarian government and media have denied any Hezbollah link to the terrorist attack against Israeli tourists at the Black Sea resort of Burgas last summer that left five Israelis and one Bulgarian dead. A Jan. 17 report broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2, however, stated that an investigation had concluded Hezbollah was involved in the attack. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry denied the report linking Hezbollah to the Burgas attack.
A report in the Bulgarian media also said that there is no evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement and added that the suspected bomber had ties to al-Qaeda, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Earlier in the week, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov visited Israel to brief Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres on the investigation. Officials have remained quiet on the details of the briefing.
Bulgaria has said that the bombing was perpetrated by outsiders but has yet to publish the full findings of its investigation. Israeli and American officials suspect Hezbollah’s involvement in the attack. The two countries have also been lobbying the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and
impose sanctions on the group.

Israel to open exhibit on King Herod
( The Jerusalem-based Israel Museum is scheduled to open an exhibit in February on the infamous biblical Jewish king, Herod the Great. King Herod plays a significant role in Christianity, appearing in the Gospel of Matthew as the bloodthirsty tyrant behind the Massacre of the Innocents. According to that account, Herod, fearing for his throne, ordered the execution of all young male children near Bethlehem after receiving word from the “wise men of the East” who were inquiring as to the whereabouts of the newly born “King of the Jews” or Jesus.
The exhibit, one of the Israel Museum’s largest, will feature artifacts recovered from what is believed to be Herod’s Tomb, discovered by Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer in the Judean Desert near Bethlehem in 2007.
King Herod, who was reviled by many of his Jewish subjects for his cooperation with the Roman Empire, was known for his lavish building projects, including the desert fortress Masada and the expansion of the Second Temple complex in Jerusalem. Today, a remnant of the Second Temple expansion, the Western Wall, is the holiest site in Jerusalem where Jews are permitted to pray, and Masada is revered by Jews as the location of Jewish fighters’ last stand against the Roman Empire following the destruction of the Temple.

Israel archaeological archives go online
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to The archaeological archive of Israel, administered by the Israel Antiquities Authority, has digitized and uploaded all of Israel’s archaeological archives to the Internet, slated to be publicly available this month. The archive allows visitors to view the impressive and original architectural plan for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, British espionage maps from World War I and blueprints for buildings on the Temple Mount. Because these documents are delicate and susceptible to decay, they were scanned individually and by hand. The documents in the online archive include texts, photographs, maps, and architectural plans. Uploading the precious material demanded special preparation. The first group of documents, including tens of thousands of items from Acre and Jerusalem, mostly in English and dated between 1919 and 1948, is already available for viewing at

Imprisoned Iranian-American pastor to face ‘hanging judge’
( A 32-year-old Iranian-American pastor who is being held at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison because of his Christian faith will go on trial next week before a judge known for handing out harsh sentences, Fox News reported.
The Reverend Saeed Abedini, a naturalized U.S. citizen and Christian convert, was arrested in September while visiting his family in Iran. Abedini will face one of Iran’s most notorious “hanging judges” on Jan. 21 on charges of compromising national security. Abedini is one of the leaders of the underground church movement in Iran. Made up of Christian converts, the movement claims to operate more than 100 churches in 30 Iranian cities, with more than 2,000 members.
In a recent letter to his wife, Abedini described the mixed signals he is receiving during his imprisonment. “One day there are intense pains after beatings in interrogations, the next day they are nice to you and offer you candy,” he wrote.
Under Shariah law, a Muslim who converts to Christianity in some cases can be punished by death. The Iranian government is known to be especially harsh on Muslims who have converted to other faiths.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is working with the U.S. government to secure Abedini’s release.

White House condemns Morsi for name-calling
( The White House has condemned the recently revealed antisemitic remarks made by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in 2010. In a video that was circulated by Egyptian media, Morsi is seen describing Zionists as “blood suckers,” “warmongers” and “descendants of apes and pigs,” according to the translation provided by Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Morsi made the comments when he served as the Muslim Brotherhood’s official spokesman in 2010.
When asked by reporters about the Morsi video, White House spokesman Jay Carney condemned the video and said the White House has addressed the remarks with Morsi. “We have raised our concerns over these remarks with the government of Egypt,” Carney said. “We completely reject these statements, as we do any language that espouses religious hatred. This kind of discourse has been acceptable in the region for far too long and is counter to the goal of peace.” In another video by MEMRI, Morsi in 2010 calls for further indoctrination of hate against Zionists. “Dear brothers, we must not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews,” he said, according to MEMRI.
Many in Egypt fear the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. Last month huge protests erupted in Egypt over fears of Islamic influence on the new constitution and a controversial decree by Morsi giving him nearly absolute power.

Reporter’s Facebook profile shut down after criticizing PA
( The Facebook profile of Arab-Israeli Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh was terminated “for security reasons” because, according to Facebook, he had posted an item that violated their terms of service. Just prior to the termination, Abu Toameh had shared a post about the corruption trial of a former Jordanian intelligence chief and a link to a blog entry critical of the Palestinian Authority that he had written for the Gatestone Institute. “The truth sometimes hurts,” Abu Toameh wrote for Gatestone. “That is why the Palestinian Authority has been working hard to prevent the outside world from hearing about many occurrences that reflect negatively on its leaders or people.”
Abu Toameh was inundated with hate mail and death threats, and his Facebook account was disabled shortly thereafter. It was reopened 24 hours later with the two posts deleted.
“Some people posted a picture of me with a Star of David on my forehead. This time it looks like a concerted campaign against me,” Abu Toameh said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “I find it strange that Facebook rushes to close [my profile] down without checking. Especially as a journalist, it really harms me; that’s my way of being in touch with my sources and my readers… Now we have to be careful about what we post and what we share. Does this mean we can’t criticize Arab governments anymore?”

Vatican reiterates support for Jews
( The chief official responsible for Vatican-Jewish relations said that the Catholic Church will not go back on its “Nostra Aetate” declaration, which says that Christians and Jews have a close bond. Cardinal Kurt Koch made that statement prior to the Day of Jewish-Christian Dialogue in Italy on Jan. 17, and in response to concern that the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) does not accept the 1965 declaration. The society’s Bishop Bernard Fellay recently referred to Jews as “enemies of the church.”
According to the World Jewish Congress, Koch told the Italian religious news service SIR that the SSPX does not “accept ecumenical dialogue, relations with Jews or religious freedom.”  “But these are central to the Holy Father’s teaching and if a group does not accept the Council and does not accept a magisterium, they need to ask themselves how they see themselves as Catholic,” Koch said. “This is the fundamental problem.”
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, had already called Fellay’s comments “absolutely unacceptable.”

Food banks see growing number of Jews in need
( Directors of Jewish food pantries are reporting a growing need for food assistance among American Jewish families. Although there is no current data, a survey of New York Jews conducted in 2011 showed that one in five of the 1.7 million Jews in the New York area live in poverty or near poverty, particularly Orthodox Jews who must send their children to Jewish schools and keep a strict kosher diet.  The most recent National Jewish Population survey also showed that 21 percent of kosher-keeping Jews in America overall are facing scant meal options in the hard-hit economy, particularly since the rules behind the production of kosher food make it more expensive than regular food. As a result, kosher food banks are seeing an upsurge of need all over the nation.
“If you don’t need kosher meat or juice, you can go to any public food pantry. If you’re kosher, you need a kosher chicken,” Bonnie Schwartzbaum, coordinator of the Jewish Community Services Kosher Food Bank in North Miami Beach, told Religion News Service. Schwartzbaum estimates a 20-percent increase in the number of people her food bank has served in the last three years. Out of 1,000 people a month she feeds, 119 are Holocaust survivors.Some normally kosher-keeping families have resorted to eating non-kosher food to survive due to the Jewish view that rules can be suspended when there is a danger to human life.
Don Meissner, community outreach coordinator at the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry in St. Louis, says that many people do not believe that Jews are struggling in this country. “There’s this misconception that Jews are uniformly successful,” he said, “and that’s never been the case.”

Like Israelis, Jordanians head to the polls
( Israel is not the only Middle Eastern country headed to the polls this week, as neighboring Jordan will also elect its next parliament, but with different stakes. In the face of growing unrest and protests over the slow pace of democratic reforms and a stagnate economy, Jordan’s King Abdullah scheduled an election for Jan. 23. Nevertheless, most Jordanians do not have high hopes for the election. Unlike Israel’s democratic election system, Jordan’s system is known for its corruption, with most of the power residing with the King and his tribal supporters.
As a result, many in the Jordanian opposition, including Palestinians – who comprise nearly half the population – and Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood are boycotting the election. “The elections are a theatrical comedy, which we will not take part in,” said Zaki Bani Irsheid from the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, the Associated Press reported. However, King Abdullah views the process differently.  In a region awash in revolution and threats from Islamists, Abdullah hopes to stave off instability by gradually reforming the system toward a constitutional monarchy. Last year he introduced reforms that will hand over more power to the newly elected parliament. Jordanians will also be able to elect their prime minister directly for
the first time.
“The system of ruling in Jordan is evolving … and the monarchy which my son will inherit will not be the same as the one I inherited,” he told a French magazine, the Associated Press reported.

Abbas claims Zionists supported the Nazis
( In an interview with a Lebanese TV station, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claimed that Zionist leaders collaborated with the Nazis to kill Jews in order to gain leverage to claim the land of Palestine and establish Israel, Israel Hayom reported. “I want one, even one Jew to come and prove to me that there were no connections between the Zionist leadership and the Nazi movement before World War II,” Abbas said. “I have in my
possession material which would fill dozens of books to prove this claim, and in the future, I promise to publish this material.” Abbas has a history of making outrageous historical claims as well as of denying the Holocaust. His dissertation at the University of Moscow claims, among other things, that the Nazis only murdered 600,000 Jews, not six million.

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