The Shortest Route to Gd
The Mio Maamin (Believer) is a new “kosher” Global Positioning System (GPS) device, which in addition to traditional GPS device functions, lists thousands of Jewish holy sites, kosher restaurants and mikvaot in Israel. It’s the newest device to help make Jewish life simpler for the high-tech religious Israeli. The device, developed by Mio Technology, also contains daily prayers. It was unveiled recently in Tel Aviv, and given a blessing by the city’s chief rabbi, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. The device will only use a man’s voice and does not include telephone or internet access. It also includes Tehillim, the Traveler’s Prayer, a Hebrew calendar, and Birkat Hamazon (grace after meals). The blessings and prayers are all currently offered in Hebrew, and other programs are in either Hebrew or English. The Mio Ma’amin sells for NIS 990 (about $245). – Correspondent Dave Gordon
British Museum Criticized for Israeli Exhibit
The Science Museum in Britain has been condemned by academics for showcasing an exhibit of Israeli scientific discoveries sponsored by the Zionist Federation of Great Britain. Seven Israeli universities were involved in the exhibit, and accused by academics of doing research that was used by the country’s military against Gaza civilians. Hundreds of people attended a demonstration at the museum in Kensington, southwest London. More than 400 academics, including 40 professors, called on the museum to cancel the event. Leading Israeli experts in stem cell research, solar energy and nano technology addressed more than 1,000 students that attended the Israel Day of Science seminar. A spokesman for the Science Museum, which rented out space to the exhibition but is not responsible for its contents, defended its decision, saying the event had “no political theme.” In 2007, members of Britain’s University and College Union (UCU) voted to sever links with Israeli universities in a move which provoked outrage around the world, and was condemned as an assault on academic freedom by Jewish groups. – Correspondent Dave Gordon
World Gives to Gaza
Delegations from 71 states, plus 16 regional, international and financial organizations, raised $4.5 billion for Gaza. Added to previously committed funds, the total amount of aid earmarked for Gaza and the PA now comes to $5.2 billion, which will be disbursed over a two-year period. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the event “a very productive conference.” Husni Mubarak of Egypt, Nicholas Sarkozy of France, Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations, Amr Moussa of the Arab League, and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority all addressed the conference. About two rockets per day have been fired from Gaza into Israel since the “ceasefire” on January 18. There was no call for Hamas to cease building smuggling tunnels and rockets. – Correspondent Dave Gordon
Nazi Guard in Ohio Slapped with 29,000 Murder Charges
An arrest warrant from Munich for John Demjanjuk, 88, who is now a retired auto worker in Ohio, seeks his deportation from Cleveland on 29,000 counts of accessory to murder in 1943 while he was a Nazi death camp guard in Poland. The warrant is based on recently obtained lists of Jewish prisoners who arrived by train at the Sobibor camp. He denies involvement in the deaths, and has said he served in the Soviet army and became a German prisoner of war in 1942. He emigrated to the U.S. but was extradited to Israel after it was believed that he was a guard at Treblinka known as Ivan the Terrible. Demjanjuk spent seven years in custody before he was released due to evidence indicating that the Treblinka guard was someone else. His U.S. citizenship was restored, but the Justice Department now says he could be deported for falsifying information on his immigration paperwork in the 1950s. – Correspondent Dave Gordon
Israel Courting Chinese Tourists
Israel’s Tourism Ministry recently opened a tourist office in Beijing – one of 15 such offices around the world. Tour guides have begun Chinese-language courses in preparation for an expected influx of Chinese tourism. In September 2008, Israel signed an agreement with China as the first step in increasing Chinese tourism to Israel. The agreement provides for organized Chinese groups to travel to Israel. Approximately 15,000 Chinese tourists visited Israel in 2008. The five-month training program, which certifies Chinese and Japanese group tours, teaches about the unique nature of Chinese tourists, their preferred tourist sites, entertainment, services and customs. The Tourism Ministry has held training sessions for chefs from hotels and cooking schools around Israel in Asian cuisine. Ethnic food options are a key factor in Chinese tourists’ selection of travel destinations. – Correspondent Dave Gordon
Brits Look to Mezuzot to Raise Home Values
Judaica vendors have reported a jump in sales of mezuzot to non-Jews in London. The interest in mezuzot among the gentile population has been linked to a recent survey by a North London property website which claimed that homes sporting the scroll on their doorposts have sold for £10,000 more than mezuza-less homes.
Some attribute the disparity in pricing to the fact that Jewish homes tend to be located in more affluent neighborhoods, but Peter Mordechai, who commissioned the survey, disagrees. “Homes with a mezuza, sold since October, have achieved a higher price regardless of whether they are in a Jewish area, or even whether they are owned by Jews,” he said. He added that he can’t fully explain the phenomenon.
Mezuza sales in London began jumping after the results of the survey were released. Esther Black, the store manager of Stein’s in London, stated, “We have sold three times as many mezuzot as usual in the past few days, and not just to Jews. We have had inquiries from Poles, Indians and even a Chinese gentleman, not the type of customers we normally get here at all.” – Correspondent L. Mizrahi
Drug Dealing Con Man Indicted
The 32 year-old Jerusalem resident who allegedly offered $1,500 to three young Israeli yeshiva students in return for their consent to carry some suitcases for him to Japan, has been indicted in a Tel Aviv court. The three boys were unaware that the luggage had false bottoms in which approximately 90,000 Ecstasy pills were hidden. After innocently handing the suitcases over to be X-rayed in Tokyo, the teens were immediately arrested, and have since been enduring harsh conditions in a Japanese prison. They sit on concrete floors in solitary confinement cells, and are denied kosher food. One student has already been tried and is expected to receive his sentence within a few months, while the others are still awaiting trial. Ninety-nine percent of drug smugglers caught in Japan are convicted, and the crime carries a penalty of 10-15 years of prison and forced labor.
The man behind the drug trafficking scheme is accused of exporting and importing dangerous substances, and conspiring to commit a criminal offense. – Correspondent L. Mizrahi
Germany Donates to Restore Auschwitz
Germany has announced that it will give €1 million (around $1.25 million) to Poland for much-needed work to restore the Auschwitz concentration camp.
The donation followed a call made by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to members of the European Union for financial help to preserve the site of the Nazi death camp. Poland estimates that it may need up to €100 million in order to restore the aging camp which draws thousands to learn firsthand of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Germany plans to contribute next year, as well, and also promised to urge German businesses and foundations to give money to the cause.– Correspondent L. Mizrahi