July 5, 2018

4.1 magnitude earthquake shakes northern Israel

Residents of the North were woken up with a bump on Wednesday morning as a 4.1 magnitude earthquake shook Haifa and the Galilee region shortly before 5:00 a.m.

The Israeli Geophysical Institute said a moderate earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter Scale was measured at 4:50 a.m., 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) from the city of Tiberius on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, at a depth of two kilometers.

There were no casualties or damage reported, but local residents complained of a rude awakening. A smaller aftershock was felt at 6:50 a.m., said the Geophysical Institute.

Soli Bar-Hen, a resident of Tiberius, told Army Radio that she was woken up by her entire apartment block shaking.

“I thought initially that a rocket had fallen here, there’s such a mess in the North,” Bar-Hen said, referring to growing tension on Israel’s northern front. “When I woke up, I saw that the whole house was shaking, so I just ran outside.”

Bar-Hen added that she lives, like many others in her neighborhood, in a high-rise apartment block and that many fear for the structural integrity of similar buildings.

Israel’s Home Front Command published on Wednesday morning a reminder of its instructions regarding how to act during an earthquake,

including recommendations to remain calm and to make your way to open outdoor spaces if possible.

Israel is located along the Syrian-African fault line, which runs along the Israel-Jordan border, part of the Great Rift Valley that runs from eastern Lebanon to Mozambique. A major earthquake is statistically due to strike Israel every 80-100 years.

In 1927, a major earthquake registering 6.2 on the Richter Scale struck Israel, killing 500 people. Another major earthquake is therefore now due.

A 2016 report by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s Home-Front Readiness Subcommittee found that if Israel were to be struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, an estimated 7,000 people would be killed, another 8,600 injured and 377,000 left homeless. In addition, the country could face damage of up to NIS 200 billion ($55 billion).

According to the National Emergency Authority, there are 80,000 buildings, including schools and hospitals, that are over three stories high and that were built before 1980, making them illegible according to current construction standards.



Slovakia latest to announce opening of cultural consulate in Jerusalem

Slovakia will open a cultural consulate in Jerusalem, Slovakian National Council Speaker Andrej Danko announced while visiting Israel on Tuesday.

Danko and Czech Senate President Milan Štěch recently visited the Knesset together as part of the itinerary of events commemorating Israel’s 70th anniversary and 100 years since the establishment of Czechoslovakia.

“I am full of hope that this is the first of a series of steps that will follow,” said MP Martin Glváč, who heads the Slovakian National Council’s Slovakian-Israeli friendship committee.

“This is a tremendous diplomatic achievement for Israel and a pleasant surprise for all of us,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said, thanking the Slovaks. “I am certain that when additional delegations arrive here, they will understand Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital.”

At the Knesset, Danko said that his country shares with Israel “the same values. The relations between us are excellent, and we appreciate your wisdom and experience.”

Legislation in the Knesset serves as an inspiration for his country, he added, as the definition of anti-Semitism in Slovakian law is based on Israeli law.

The Czech Republic opened an honorary consulate and culture center in Jerusalem in May. In late April, Czech President Miloš Zeman announced a “three stage” plan to relocate the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which included the reopening of the consulate.

The United States, Guatemala, and Paraguay have relocated their embassies to Jerusalem.

A number of other countries have expressed interest in moving their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem, among them Honduras and Romania.

In April 2017, the Russian Foreign Ministry made a similar move to recognize “west Jerusalem” as the Israeli capital.

In the latest development, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was told in June by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov that his country will open an honorary consulate in Jerusalem.



Ireland to pass BDS law against Jewish businesses in ‘occupied territories’

The second-largest party in Ireland’s parliament announced Wednesday that it will support a pro-BDS bill coming to a vote later this month, thus guaranteeing its passage.

Fianna Fáil will join the largest opposition party, Sinn Féin, and others in passing what is officially called the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Act of 2018. Although it does not mention Israel, or even “Palestine,” by name, its sponsor, Senator Frances Black (Independent), has openly noted that its wording was carefully formulated so that it would only apply to the Jewish state.

This means that the law, which would affect Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, does not cover areas such as Turkey’s longtime occupation of northern Cyprus or Russia’s more recent occupation of the Crimea.

As reported in JNS, a spokesman for the Irish pro-Israel group Irish4Israel said that the bill “was endorsed by trade unions and others and had the support of many smaller parties. The motivation is a naive hope to show solidarity with the Palestinians” due to “an Irish obsession to identify with the perceived underdog.”

Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins said that “passing the Occupied Territories Bill has the potential to send a strong message that the issue of illegal settlements is being taken seriously and needs to be addressed.”

Israel’s embassy in Ireland blasted the bill in a statement as an “immoral” one that “will not do any good.” Legislation that promotes any kind of boycott, it continued, “should be rejected as it does nothing to achieve peace but rather empowers the Hamas terrorists as well as those Palestinians who refuse to come to the negotiating table.”

In addition, the embassy noted, “Closing doors will not in any way facilitate Ireland’s role and influence.”

An interesting point about the proposed legislation is that it runs counter to the law of the European Union (of which Ireland is a member), which states that all EU countries must have a common trade policy. In explaining why parliament should go ahead with it anyway, Black told Ireland’s TheJournal.ie, “I feel if we wait for the EU to take the lead, we could be waiting forever.”

The legislation could also result in some unintended economic consequences for Ireland, more significant than the loss of trade with Israel, which was Ireland’s 11th-largest export partner in 2016, with $1.63 billion, according to JNS.

This is because the bill criminalizing trade with companies in territories Israel liberated in 1967 could put American businesses with Irish subsidiaries (and Irish companies with subsidiaries in the USA) in a bind. They would either be contravening Irish law or violating various state laws as well as the U.S. Export Administration Regulations, which requires American firms to refuse to participate in foreign boycotts that the US does not sanction. Companies that could be affected include, for example, huge multi-nationals like Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, whose trade numbers collectively far outweigh Israel’s.



7 startups join forces with Israeli spooks in bid to boost AI skills

Seven Israeli startups have been selected by the venture capital fund of Tel Aviv University and the Shin Bet domestic security agency to take part in a unique accelerator program that will foster early stage artificial intelligence projects in a bid to help the secretive agency tap into new skills.

The first cycle of the joint accelerator program will last about four months. It is aimed at entrepreneurs who have proved the technological feasibility of their products. It will focus on early-stage AI projects with an emphasis on natural language processing technologies, robotics and data science, a joint statement said.

The projects — chosen by a committee of professionals from the Shin Bet and TAU Ventures, a fund that invests in early-stage companies set up by the Tel Aviv University — received a grant of $ 50,000 from the Shin Bet.

The startups participating in the program will benefit from the close mentoring of content and technology experts from the Shin Bet, and from experts from the university and the industry. The connection to the Shin Bet will also provide the entrepreneurs with ways to test the capabilities of their technologies and cooperation opportunities, the Shin Bet and TAU Ventures said in a joint statement. The startups will be hosted at the premises of TAU Ventures in Tel Aviv.

At an event earlier this week in which the startups were announced, Nadav Argaman, the head of the Shin Bet, said that an organization such as his that deals with life-and-death matters “must be at the forefront of technology. This means reshaping the organization’s technological approach and connecting us to the most innovative ideas and solutions that will best meet our needs.”

If you had asked someone from the Shin Bet three years ago whether such a plan could exist for the organization, he said, “the answer you would hear is probably not. The very establishment of the program attests to a new spirit in the Shin Bet.”

The seven startups that were selected for the program are:

CannyAI, whose technology enables the editing, modification and synthesis of videos for the film and television industry using artificial intelligence.

AutoPlay AI, a developer of bots that test software products autonomously.

Extend, which is developing technology that expands reality by connecting human capabilities to that of drones, allowing better control of events happening in the sky.

Clone, which develops virtual reality technologies to enable users to virtually bring a person from afar into their own environment.

Talamoos, which is developing the next generation of visual platforms based on big data and machine learning prediction platforms.

Cyabra, a startup that says it can protect brands and organizations from disinformation and fictitious identities.

Legal Automation, which is developing a system that can automatically analyze documents and apply logic to them and make decisions accordingly.

“The seven startups chosen to take part in the program have been chosen with great care and are in my opinion the spearhead of deep technology in Israel,” Nimrod Cohen, the managing partner of TAU Ventures, said in the statement. “We will do everything possible to help these startups get to where they aspire to.”



Young man killed in stabbing attack in Beersheba

A foreign national turned himself in at a police station in Beersheba, following a stabbing incident in the city which resulted in the death of another foreign national on Wednesday.

Th victim of the stabbing, a 29-year-old man, was found wounded and unconscious in the old city of Beersheba.

Magen David Adom paramedic Rafael Hori said: “When we arrived at the scene we saw a 29-year-old man lying in the street next to the building, unconscious with signs of violent violence on his upper body. We carried out a number of medical examinations in order to give him medical treatment but there were no signs of life and we had to pronounce his death.”

Police said the nature of the incident was criminal, and they taken two Eritrean suspects, ages 29 and 30, for questioning.

The investigation is ongoing.



Claude Lanzmann, acclaimed director of documentary ‘Shoah,’ dies at 92

PARIS (AP) — French Director Claude Lanzmann, whose 9½-hour masterpiece “Shoah” bore unflinching witness to the Holocaust through the testimonies of Jewish victims, German executioners and Polish bystanders, has died at the age of 92.

Gallimard, the publishing house for Lanzmann’s autobiography, said he died Thursday morning at a hospital in Paris. It gave no further details.

The power of “Shoah,” filmed in the 1970s during Lanzmann’s trips to the barren Polish landscapes where the slaughter of Jews was planned and executed, was in viewing the Holocaust as an event in the present, rather than as history. It contained no archival footage, no musical score — just the landscape, trains and recounted memories.

Lanzmann was 59 when the movie, his second, came out in 1985. It defined the Holocaust for those who saw it, and defined him as a filmmaker.

“I knew that the subject of the film would be death itself. Death rather than survival,” Lanzmann wrote in his autobiography. “For 12 years I tried to stare relentlessly into the black sun of the Shoah.”

“Shoah” was nearly universally praised. Roger Ebert called it “one of the noblest films ever made” and Time Out and The Guardian were among those ranking it the greatest documentary of all time. The Polish government was a notable dissenter, which dismissed the film as “anti-Polish propaganda” (but later allowed “Shoah” to be aired in Poland).

In 2013, nearly three decades later, Lanzmann revisited the Holocaust with “The Last of the Unjust,” focusing on his interviews in 1975 with a Vienna rabbi who was the last “elder” of the Theresienstadt ghetto, which was used by the Nazis to fool visitors into believing that the Jews were being treated humanely.

In a statement, outgoing chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, said that Lanzmann’s dedication to commemorating the Holocaust was “unparalleled.”

“Claude Lanzmann was single-handedly responsible for keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive in the hearts and minds of so many around the world. His magnum opus, Shoah, captured the horrors of that period through the personal testimonies of survivors, witnesses, and perpetrators alike and was the first time many were confronted with the reality of the Holocaust as told by those who were there,” said Sharansky.

“His personal dedication to commemorating the Shoah was unparalleled, and he traveled around the world, even in his later years, to ensure the memory of the victims was never forgotten. For that, we owe him a great debt of gratitude. May his memory be a blessing.”

Lanzmann was born Nov. 27, 1925, in Paris, the child of French Jews. After his mother left in 1934 and the war broke out, Claude and his two siblings moved to a farm where their father timed his children as they practiced escaping to a shelter he had dug.

Lanzmann ultimately joined the Resistance as a Communist and became intellectually enamored with Jean-Paul Sartre, whose “Anti-Semite and Jew” formed the philosophical underpinning of what would later be his life’s work.

Lanzmann joined Sartre’s circle and ended up having an affair with Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre’s companion who was 17 years older than the young acolyte. Lanzmann left for Israel and moved in with Beauvoir when he returned, from 1952 to 1959, according to “The Patagonia Hare,” his autobiography. Sartre, Lanzmann’s hero, became a constant in their life together.

“So I was an opportunist — ‘on the make’ you say. But she was beautiful. My attraction to her was genuine,” he once told Beauvoir’s biographer. Long after their affair ended, Beauvoir provided much of the financial support for “Shoah.”

Lanzmann tinkered in politics and journalism, working periodically for the journal France Dimanche, taking on freelance assignments. He joined Sartre in signing the Manifesto for the 121, calling on French soldiers to refuse fighting in Algeria, and was prosecuted.

In 1968, he did television reporting on the Israeli Army in the Sinai Peninsula, which led to his first film: “Israel, Why.”

Beauvoir, writing about Lanzmann in her memoir “Force of Circumstance” described him as someone who “seemed to be carrying the weight of a whole ancestral experience on his shoulders.”

It was this weight that ultimately led a vagabond intellectual to examine the defining event of 20th century Judaism, obsessively tracking down those who were closest to the dead. “The film would have to take up the ultimate challenge; take the place of the non-existent images of death in the gas chambers,” he wrote.

The film opens with Simon Srebnik, who as a 13-year-old Jewish detainee sang for the SS and fed their rabbits at the Chelmno concentration camp. Crediting a sweet voice with his survival, Srebnik performs the same songs for Lanzmann as he is rowed along the placid river that leads to the camp. Later, it is revealed that among Srebnik’s tasks was to dump bags filled crushed bones of Jews into the same waters.

He filmed Abraham Bomba at work in a Tel Aviv barbershop, describing how he cut women’s hair inside the gas chambers Treblinka. With periodic questions by Lanzmann, Bomba recounts how after each group of women was done, the barbers were asked to leave for a few minutes, the women were gassed and then the men returned to cut the hair of dozens more naked women accompanied by their children.

“This room is the last place where they went in alive and they will never go out alive again,” he said. “We just cut their hair to make them believe they’re getting a nice haircut.” The barber begged to stop when he recalled seeing the wife and sister of a friend come in, but Lanzmann prodded him to continue.

Lanzmann sometimes used secret cameras to record testimony, including that of Franz Suchomel, a former guard at Treblinka who pointed like a schoolteacher to a blueprint of the camp to show how bodies were disposed of, describing new gas chambers that could “finish off 3,000 people in two hours.” At one point during the interview, Lanzmann promised Suchomel that he would not be recorded.

One of the most harrowing interviews Lanzmann did was also among the briefest in “Shoah” — Yitzhak Zuckerman, a leader of the Jewish resistance in Warsaw, who survived Treblinka and saw untold numbers of friends and comrades die. He told Lanzmann bitterly, “if you could lick my heart, it would poison you.”

At the film’s premier, the French journalist Jean Daniel told Lanzmann: “This justifies a life.”

Lanzmann is survived by his third wife, Dominique, and his daughter Angelique. His son Felix died last year.