Entries in Jerusalem (12)


Romney's Overseas Comment Riles Palestinians

Oli Scarff/Getty Images(GDANSK, Poland) -- The White House was subtly gleeful Monday as Mitt Romney's campaign dealt with the latest group to be offended during the Republican presidential candidate's overseas tour that was intended to showcase his foreign policy credentials.

Romney reportedly insulted the Palestinians by suggesting that the discrepancy between the wealth of Israel and Palestinians was due in part to their different cultures. A top Palestinian labeled the analysis racist.

In addition, Romney's campaign said Monday that they had hoped to go to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, but a senior Romney adviser said that she is on vacation.

"I will say though that the governor and the chancellor will find a time to speak soon," the Romney adviser said at a briefing on the plane to Gdansk, Poland Monday.

The White House weighed in on Romney's remarks that angered the Palestinians.

"One of the challenges of being an actor on the international stage, particularly when you're traveling to such a sensitive part of the world, is that your comments are very closely scrutinized for meaning, for nuance, for motivation," Obama Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday in the White House briefing.

"And it is clear that there are some people who have taken a look at those comments and are scratching their heads a little bit."

Senior Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod weighed in on Twitter: "Is there anything about Romney's Rolling Ruckus that would inspire confidence in his ability to lead US foreign policy?"

Sniping aside, Romney's comments came down to provable dollars and cents. At a fundraiser in Jerusalem's King David Hotel earlier Monday, the presumptive GOP nominee told his donors, "As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality."

"And that exists also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador; Mexico and the United States," Romney added, before noting that culture "makes all the difference." It's a point he consistently stressed on the 2008 campaign trail.

"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said.

Romney's campaign said his comments have been "grossly mischaracterized."

The controversy over his Palestinian comments come on the heels of his comments in London when he said the city's preparations for the Summer Games -- something he knows about after spear heading the 2002 Salt Lake Games -- were "disconcerting." Many news outlets and pundits had reported about lapses from the company charged with providing security for The Olympics in the days before The Games started. Those lapses -- which reportedly took U.K. soldiers to butress -- were what Gov. Romney's comment was addressing.

The comment ruffled feathers throughout this country and England and resulted in a public upbraiding by both the prime minister and London's mayor.

He was also forced to distance himself from comments anonymous advisers made to the Telegraph saying that Romney had a better appreciation of the "Anglo Saxon heritage."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pilgrims Celebrate Holy Fire Ceremony During Orthodox Easter

Meredith Mandell/ABC News(JERUSALEM) -- Jerusalem’s Old City was illuminated with tens of thousands of candles this weekend as pilgrims celebrated a 1,200 year old holy fire ceremony during Orthodox Easter.

On Saturday, raucous crowds inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were held in check by hundreds of Israeli soldiers and police, as the pilgrims waited for what they believe to be holy fire igniting supernaturally from Jesus’ tomb.

When the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem emerged from tomb of the Sepulcher with a single flame, the crowds erupted in cheers and whistles.

The fire spread from candle to candle as the faithful waved their hands through the flame, insisting it didn’t burn them.

Angelo Bartzas, 39, and his new bride Elpida Papakonstantinou, 30, Eastern Orthodox pilgrims from Melbourne Australia, traveled for 36 hours to get to Israel for the holy fire ceremony on their honeymoon.

“It’s unexplained except for the power of God, Bartzas said. “It’s just a miracle that happens every year continuously.”

Many of the onlookers were members of the clergy draped in simple black garments. Sister Nicolaida  Gojan, 38, of the Romanian Orthodox Church said she was eagerly awaiting the fire with  a lantern in hand.

“It’s a big grace for me because I keep in my hands the candles that will bring holy light for all of the Romanian people,” she said.

The flame will be sent out from Jerusalem to Orthodox populations across the Middle East and Eastern European countries on specially chartered flights.

Religious fervor is blanketing the city this week.

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism estimates that 125,000 Christian pilgrims have flocked to Jerusalem for Orthodox Easter.

Zhenik Hovsepian, 45, a born-again Christian from Los Angeles was overcome while being interviewed.

“Are you kidding me? Of course I’m excited. The moment that we arrived here I was very emotional and I wrote to my family in Christ, I wrote them that I’m so excited to be here in the land where he walked and talked, and played and taught,” Hovsepian said.

The majority of the pilgrims are from eastern European countries along with about 2,500 Coptic Orthodox Christians from Egypt.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Albert Einstein Documents Look at Science and Love

Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Hebrew University is expanding and digitizing a catalog of Albert Einstein’s documents that now contains more than 80,000 of the scientist’s writings and private correspondence from over the years.

Some of the 2,000 documents that have been scanned total about 7,000 pages and are now published on the updated site -- -- for the public to see.  They include one of the original manuscripts for his famous formula E=mc², a postcard to his mother in her final days and a letter from his mistress 21 years his junior in which she addresses him as “Highly-regarded Professor!”

The update doubles the number of cataloged Einstein documents from 40,000 to 80,000.

“The renewed site is another expression of the Hebrew University’s intent to share with the entire cultural world this vast intellectual property which has been deposited into its hand by Einstein himself,” Professor Hanoch Gutfreund, the academic head of the Einstein archive, said in a statement.

When he died in 1955, Einstein left all his writings and the rights to his image to the university.

“Dear Mother, Today some happy news,” he writes to his sick mother Pauline in a letter from September 1919.  “The British expeditions have definitely verified the deflection of light by the sun.  Maja [Einstein's sister] writes me, to my dismay, that you’re not only in a lot of pain but that you have gloomy thoughts as well.  How much I would like to keep you company again so that you aren’t left to such nasty musing…”

The twice-married Einstein had several affairs and was known to have believed that “Marriage is the unsuccessful attempt to make something lasting out of an incident.”

During his second marriage to first cousin Elsa Lowenthal, he fell in love with Betty Neumann in 1923.  Fifteen years later, she would write him in Princeton, N.J., from Austria, asking for help immigrating to the United States as life got tougher for Jews in Europe before World War II.

“I lost my brother,” she explains to Einstein, who would help her get to the U.S.

The archives curator tell ABC News there are many more letters from Neumann that, along with thousands of other pages, will be scanned and published online during the course of the year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israeli Leadership Adding to Speculation of Attack on Iran

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak Friday used the strongest language yet in condemning Iran’s nuclear program, and added to increased speculation among foreign policy observers that Israel could launch a preemptive attack on Iran, possibly within the next year.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Barak indicated that Israel is prepared to take action should the series of economic sanctions in place do nothing to prevent Iran from reaching a point of no return on its alleged development of nuclear weapons.

“Many analysts estimate that a nuclear Iran will be more complicated to deal with, more dangerous and more costly in blood than if it is stopped today,” Barak said at a conference Thursday. “Whoever says later might find that it will be too late.”

Recent Israeli intelligence and reports from the United Nations indicated that Iran is on its way toward the development of a nuclear weapon, but it has not been confirmed that the Islamic Republic intends to actually build such a device.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dead Sea Scrolls Now Available Online

File photo. Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It took 2,000 years, but the Dead Sea Scrolls have finally entered the digital age. Monday, for the first time, some of the scrolls are available online thanks to a partnership between Google and Israel’s national museum.

Five of the most important scrolls can now be seen in high-resolution on the Internet. Users can zoom in and out, translate passages to English and access supplemental material.

The scrolls were written from about 200 B.C. to 70 A.D. and, according to Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at New York University, they offer an unrivaled look at the time after the biblical books were penned and before the Christian texts and documents of rabbinic Judaism were written.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls help us fill in this two- to three-century gap to help us understand what religious developments took place,” said Rubenstein. “We see changes among different groups as they wrestle with powerful cultural and political forces....These changes help us understand where monotheistic traditions in the west came from.”

Custodians of the scrolls had been criticized for only allowing select groups of scholars access to them.

The original scrolls are located in a specially designed vault in Jerusalem that requires multiple keys, a magnetic card and a secret code to open.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Israeli Embassy Attacked in Cairo, Killing Three and Injuring 1,049 

Comstock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM, Israel) -- Three people died and 1,049 people were injured, including 46 policemen, after an Israeli embassy was attacked by angry Egyptian protestors in Cairo Saturday.

The interior ministry on Saturday ordered all officers back on duty and canceled vacations, according to Egypt's state TV.

The Israeli ambassador and other Israeli staff were evacuated from Egypt and 17 protestors were arrested.

BBC News reports the attack was a result of the Anti-Israeli sentiment that has grown following violence on the Gaza border in August.

Attention has now been turned toward assessing the long-term diplomatic damage.

The overnight attack Saturday morning was a "grave violation" of diplomatic norms and a "blow to peaceful relations" between the two countries, said a senior Israeli official.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Glenn Beck Heads 'Rally to Restore Courage' in Israel

Michael Caulfield/WireImage(JERUSALEM) -- Controversial former Fox News talk show host and radio personality Glenn Beck has been in Israel all week, leading a number of rallies to show his support for the Jewish State.

The finale will come Wednesday night in Jerusalem's old city, in a rally being dubbed "Rally to Restore Courage."

Beck has billed the last rally as an event where people of all faiths will pledge their support for Israel and the Jewish people.  But his audience Wednesday night will mainly be American evangelical Christians and other conservatives.

Some Israeli politicians and many in the public find Beck too controversial to support. Beck recently implied social protesters in Israel were communists.

Others don't trust the man who gave credence to Jewish conspiracy theories and wonder if he's using Israel to restore his image after the rocky end of his cable news career.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama: US Future Is Bound to the Middle East

File photo. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- Hailing the "extraordinary change" that is taking place in the Middle East and North Africa, President Obama announced Thursday a series of policy and economic initiatives aimed at promoting democracy and reforms in the region.

"We know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history, and by faith," the president said in a speech at the State Department. "A new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied."

In a speech that was interrupted only twice by applause, Obama called out specific leaders, including Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who’s facing civil unrest from his own people.

He warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who’s finding himself in a similar situation, to "lead that transition or get out of the way."

Obama also denounced the "hypocrisy of the Iranian regime" and urged U.S. partner Bahrain -- in relatively softer tones -- "to engage in a dialogue" and "forge a just future for all Bahrainis."

"In the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region," Obama said. "Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we will need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States."

The president also spoke extensively about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, one of the biggest points of contention in the region. He urged both sides to take action to promote peace and reiterated calls for a two-state solution.

"The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation," he said.

"The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine," he continued. "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."

The president vowed to foster economic growth and social reform in the region, while aiding in the development of a civil society and technological growth. The series of initiatives announced Thursday include better economic management, economic stability, economic modernization and reform, and a framework for trade integration and investment, according to fact sheets provided by the administration.

Specific to Egypt and Tunisia, where the so-called Arab Spring began, Obama said the United States has asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week's G-8 summit to stabilize and modernize their economies.

The United States will provide a debt relief of $1 billion to Egypt -- one of the United States' oldest and closest partners in the Arab world -- and guarantee another $1 billion in loans to finance infrastructure and job creation.

The president also said his administration is working with members of Congress to create enterprise funds for the two countries, modeled after the system that was developed for Eastern European countries in their transition to democracy.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, an independent U.S. government agency that mobilizes private capital around the world to advance U.S. foreign policy, will provide $2 billion to the region.

Obama's speech comes during a time when the region is undergoing unprecedented change. The movement for democracy began with the toppling of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's regime in Tunisia, then the popular revolt in Egypt that brought down the longtime rule of President Hosni Mubarak, and then civil unrest in Libya to overthrow Gadhafi.

Similar uprisings are taking hold across the Arab world. In Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, scores of people have died in recent months as their government attempts to squelch protests.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Netanyahu: Israel Prepared to 'Act with Great Force' Against Terrorism

Jim Hollander - pool/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning against terrorists Friday following a new wave of rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

"We stand ready to act with great force and great determination to put a stop to it," Netanyahu said.  "I know that the United States has been doing the same and would do the same."

"Any civilized society will not tolerate such wanton attacks on its civilians.  Israel will not tolerate such wanton attacks on its civilians," the prime minister added.

The rockets fired by Palestinian militants Thursday landed deep inside Israel and came a day after a bombing in Jerusalem left one British woman and at least 25 others injured.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


British Woman Killed in Jerusalem Bombing

ABC News(JERUSALEM) -- A British woman was killed, and at least 25 others injured, when a ball bearing-packed four-pound bomb planted at a Jerusalem bus stop exploded Wednesday -- an attack investigators believe was orchestrated by Palestinian terrorists, officials told ABC News Thursday. It was the first such bombing in Jerusalem in about seven years.

"We believe the terrorist attack was carried out by Palestinians with the intent to kill as many Israelis as was possible near the central bus station in Jerusalem," said Mickey Rosenfeld, foreign press spokesman for the Israeli Police.

He said police officials don't know of anyone who has claimed responsibility for the attack. However, police officials said they are looking at the possibility of an organized cell, possibly in the Jerusalem area.

Mary Jean Gardner, a 59-year-old woman identified in media accounts as a Scottish born Bible translator, was traveling with her family when she was mortally wounded by the suitcase bomb. It had been planted beside a pay phone on sidewalk near the bus stop. All of the injured were taken to local hospitals, but Gardner, one of three rushed to hospitals in critical condition, did not survive.

The bombing came in the midst of a wave of rocket attacks launched out of the Gaza Strip, some of which were claimed by a Palestinian terror group known as the Al Quds Brigade, an armed wing of the terrorist-designated Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to media reports.

The bomb was thought to be either remotely triggered to go off just as the bus arrived or was on a timer, officials told ABC News Wednesday. Using a planted device is a significant change in tactics from the suicide bombing campaign that left a trail of blood across Israel during the second Palestinian uprising that targeted buses, clubs and restaurants during the last decade. The Israeli town of Dimona was struck by a suicide bombing attack in 2008, but it's been almost seven years since Jerusalem was the target of a bombing attack.

The bombing, along with the rocket attacks from Gaza, prompted Israeli officials to draft a letter to the United Nations complaining of a "very serious escalation of Palestinian terrorist attacks targeting innocent civilians."

Before Gardner was named as the attack's sole casualty, British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the bombing as a "callous and disgusting act of terrorism."

After learning of the bombing, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Israel, "like all nations, of course, has to respond when this occurs."

Thursday Israeli Defense Forces launched a wave of air attacks in the northern region of the Gaza strip, targeting a "terrorist center" of Hamas that the IDF said had launched several rockets into southern Israel in recent days.

"We will not tolerate attacks on Israel's civilians, not in communities in the South and not in Jerusalem," Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak said Wednesday. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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