World Briefs 12-26-11

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Israel decries Christmas Day terror attacks in Nigeria

Click photo to download. Caption: Security forces inspect the damage after a car bomb exploded at the St Theresa's Catholic Church in Madalla, near Abuja, Nigeria, December 25, 2011. Credit: EPAIsrael on Sunday issued a keen rebuke of the Christmas Day terror attacks in Nigeria that killed at least 39 people, the majority of them Catholics celebrating mass, Israel Hayom reported.

"Israel condemns in the strongest terms the terror attacks that occurred in Nigeria on Christmas day and expresses deep sadness at the loss of lives of innocent people," the statement read.

A radical Muslim sect, Boko Haram, was behind the series of coordinated blasts that ripped across Nigeria on Sunday, with the highest death toll occurring on the steps of St. Theresa’s Catholic church, where the blood of more than three dozen dead worshippers pooled in the dust from a massive explosion.

Boko Haram has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a multi-ethnic nation of more than 160 million people. The group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, is responsible for at least 504 killings this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.

JointMedia News Service

Germany to practice against ‘steadily’ improving Israeli soccer team

Click photo to download. Caption: Israeli national soccer team captain Yossi Benayoun. Credit: David Lee.The German Football Federation announced that Germany will play Israel in a friendly game hosted in Leipzig on June 1. This game and an additional one against Switzerland will take place in preparation for next year’s European Championship, Yediot Ahronot reported.

The coach of the German team, Joachim Loew, said that both soccer teams are “two interesting opponents” and that the Israeli team has “improved steadily in recent years.”

Germany has always been one of the strongest teams in the European championships. It will face the Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark in Group B during the 2012 competition, which will take place in Poland and Ukraine.

—JointMedia News Service

Salafists in Egypt shift gears, condemn ties with Israel

Egypt's ultra-conservative Islamist party Al-Nour shifted gears on the Israel-Egypt peace treaty on Sunday, saying they will "stand firmly against normalization between the two countries in all forms, and are against ties with any entity that wants to harm the Egyptian identity," according to Israel Hayom.

The statement came after the Salafist Al-Nour's spokesman Dr. Yusari Hamad gave an interview last week to Israel Army Radio in which he stated that all Al-Nour supports peace with Israel. The interview caused an uproar in the Egyptian press and prompted the party to clarify their position. The party will work to change clauses in the treaty "in a legitimate manner," according to the statement on Sunday.

Al-Nour is currently in second place after the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party which earned around 40% of the votes.

After the interview aired last week, Hamad told The Associated Press that he did not know he was talking to Israeli Army Radio, and he was only told it was for an Israeli broadcaster. He claimed that had he known, he would not have agreed to the Army Radio interview because "they occupy our Palestinian brothers."

JointMedia News Service

Israel launches tourism campaign in Brazil

The Israel Ministry of Tourism is trying to get Brazilians to visit the country with a new advertisement titled, You'll Never be the Same—Come Find the Israel in You,” Ynet reported.

This marketing venture, launched last month, will include two-by-seven-inch print and digital advertisements to be printed in leisure, Evangelical Christian and Catholic travel media throughout Brazil. The venture is part of a larger project conceptualized by Haim Gutin, Israel’s commissioner for Tourism in North and South America, as well as other officials. The whole project is expected to cost around $125,000.

“We are very excited to increase our efforts in positioning Israel as one of the world’s most attractive tourism destinations for Brazilian travelers,” Gutin told Ynet, adding that he hopes the ads will emphasize Israel’s unique mix of modern, historic and religious attractions.

—JointMedia News Service

Report: Israel attacks Gaza-bound arms convoy in Sudan

The Israel Air Force recently struck two vehicles in eastern Sudan that were smuggling Iranian weapons to Gaza, according to Sudanese media reports published on Sunday.

Sudanese government and army officials have denied that any such attack occurred, and Israeli officials were remaining mum on the reports, Israel Hayom reported.

According to Sudanese newspaper Al-Intibaha on Sunday, quoting sources from local tribes who witnessed the attacks, the first IAF strike took place about 10 days ago, targeting a convoy of six Land Cruiser SUVs. Four people were killed and two cars were completely destroyed, the report said.

The second attack, according to the newspaper, took place last Sunday, hitting a Toyota and killing everyone in it. The people in the car, however, were reported to be "gold seekers" and not arms smugglers.

While there was no official Israeli response to Sunday's Sudanese report, defense officials have, for some time, been closely monitoring the Iran-Hamas smuggling route which routinely passes through Sudan.

JointMedia News Service

Iceland’s Jews struggle to maintain culture and religion

Iceland’s Jewish community is considering applying for official government recognition as a minority religion, to receive such benefits as funding for kosher food and synagogue building, Haaretz reported.

However, the process is easier said than done.

Not many people will be willing to publically identify themselves as Jews, said American-born Mike Levin, now living in Iceland. “Then, you’ve got to decide who becomes the leader of the community, who becomes the treasurer, and who becomes the official representative next time there’s a big crisis in the Middle East and the media want some questions answered,” he told Haaretz.

Only about 100 Jews live in Iceland, a tiny northern nation with a total population of no more than 300,000. Most of Iceland’s Jews are actually foreigners who married a local. Despite this, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has already begun efforts to promote Jewish life in the country by organizing a kosher seder for Passover.

“It was the first kosher seder ever held in Iceland, and we had more than 50 people join us,” said Rabbi Berel Pewzner, a Chabad emissary.

The majority population, predominantly Lutheran Christian, often doesn’t know a lot about Jews or their religion. Just a few years ago the Icelandic national theater company staged “Fiddler on the Roof” and “asked if they could come to our seder to see what real Jews look like,” said Hope Knutsson, who also lives in Iceland.

—JointMedia News Service

List showcases world’s most gorgeous Jewish women

Click photo to download. Caption: Israeli model Esti Ginsberg has been voted #1 on a list of the top 50 "hottest Jewish women." Credit: Michal Bar.Israeli model Esti Ginsberg has been voted #1 on a list of the top 50 “hottest Jewish women,” compiled by US-based Complex Magazine for Hanukkah. Ginsberg has already appeared in Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue three times.

Other famous names to make the list include Bar Refaeli, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Elizabeth Banks (convert), Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Sarah Silverman, as well as Israeli actresses Noa Tishby and Yael Bar Zohar. Gwenyth Paltrow, Winona Ryder and Kate Hudson are not commonly known as Jewish, but they also made the list.

“No matter your faith or creed, after reading this list you’ll agree that the sexy ladies of the Tribe of Judah play second fiddler on the roof to none,” the magazine article accompanying the list reads.

—JointMedia News Service

Book reveals the story of Iranian ‘Schindler’

Abdol-Hossein Sardari may not be a familiar name. Now a new book, In the Lion's Shadow, tells how Sardari helped Iranian Jews living in Europe flee the Nazis, the BBC reported.

During the Holocaust, Iran had a cozy relationship with Germany. Hitler even declared Iranians to be members of the Aryan race in an effort to get Iranian support. But Iranian Jews living in Europe faced the same persecution as European Jews.

As the book tells, Sardari used his influence and German contacts to gain exemptions from Nazi race laws for more than 2,000 Iranian Jews by arguing that these people were not racially related to European Jewry. He also helped forge travel documents for Iranian-Jewish families trying to escape Europe.

“I remember everywhere, when we were running away, they would ask for our passports, and I remember my father would hand them the passports and they would look at them. And then they would look at us. It was scary. It was very, very scary,” said Eliane Senahi Cohanim, who was 7 years old when Sardari helped her family escape the Nazis.

Sardari died in 1981 without ever seeking recognition for his actions. He was posthumously recognized by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2004.

—JointMedia News Service

Coptic Christians face persecution in Egypt

Middle East experts are warning that Coptic Christians might face greater persecution in the wake of recent unrest in Egypt, the Wall Street Journal reported. Recently, Egyptian mobs have looted Coptic churches, homes and shops, and burned churches.

Things have been historically not easy for this minority in this predominantly Muslim country. Islamists traditionally view Coptic Christians as “kafirs,” meaning “nonbelievers” in Arabic. In February, 2011, 23-year-old Coptic Christian Kirolos Andraws was attacked by thugs on an Egyptian street and told he deserves to die for refusing to convert to Islam. This forced Andraws to escape to the U.S. on a tourist visa and seek political asylum.

“I have no other option,” he said. A Muslim cleric already cut off the ear of one Christian man, justifying the deed in Islamic law. 

—JointMedia News Service

Posted on December 26, 2011 and filed under Briefs, World.