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Gehry Speaks Out on Canceled Museum Project

Contradicting Tablet, he says move is not political

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Gehry in Brooklyn, New York, in April 2008.(Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Celebrated architect Frank Gehry has denied his partner’s contention—reported in Tablet Magazine—that their firm ceased to participate in the plans for a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem due to “perceived political sensitivities.”

In Michael Z. Wise’s Tablet Magazine story, published yesterday, Gehry Partners design partner Craig Webb said the firm was “no longer involved in the project,” and added, “It is politically very sensitive.” The statement likely referred to the museum’s proposed site on a centuries-old Muslim cemetery and the subsequent chorus that has demanded it be built elsewhere. (Others have taken issue with Gehry’s futuristic design; they argue it is incompatible with Jerusalem’s stone cityscape. Wise wrote that the museum as Gehry designed it “would hardly have ranked among Gehry’s finest creations.”)

But! The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, said yesterday in a statement (which is not online; we received it via email) that, in fact, it was the Center that chose to go in a different direction. And right there to confirm this assertion was Gehry himself. Said the architect (who, for the record, is Jewish): “Unfortunately, our staff and resources are committed to other projects around the globe, and thus I will not be able to participate in the redesign effort. Contrary to a published report quoting my partner Craig Webb, this parting has nothing whatsoever to do with perceived political sensitivities.” That would be Tablet Magazine’s published report. Gehry went on to give the “vitally important” museum his best wishes.

The Center said the switch is intended “to reflect today’s world economic realities.” And Hier praised Gehry: “Frank has done an amazing job and has worked with us at every step of the way to realize our dreams.” Neither Gehry nor Hier was available to comment for Wise’s article.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s first Museum of Tolerance opened in Los Angeles in 1993.

Unbuilt [Tablet Magazine]

Daybreak: ‘Terror Cell’ Blamed For Jordan Attack

Plus the Israeli with 17 wives, and more in the news

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• Jordanian authorities arrested several suspects in connection with yesterday’s bombing of a convoy carrying Israeli diplomats from Amman to Israel (an assault in which no one was injured). Jordanian news outlets fingered a “professional terror cell,” and warned of similar future attacks. [JPost]
Haaretz’s military correspondent guesses that the attack was launched by either al-Qaeda affiliates or Hezbollah. Though the attack’s failure was due to sloppy execution, he notes, it also evinced excellent intelligence and thorough planning. [Haaretz]
• Israel’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who also is the envoy to Haiti, visited the devastation and briefly saw the Haitian president. “As of yet, there is no one around to provide a solution to this catastrophe,” he related. [Haaretz]
• Goel Ratzon, an Israeli who is the self-appointed leader of a quasi-cult, was arrested for alleged enslavement and sexual abuse. He was living in a compound south of Tel Aviv with his 17 female partners and their “at least 40” children. [NYT]
• An anonymous source claimed that Israel might be open to “proximity talks,” under which a mediator—likely U.S. envoy George Mitchell—would shuttle between it and the Palestinian Authority as a form of peace negotiations. [JPost]
• Leib Frank, a godfather to Israel’s South African community, died at 91. [Haaretz]

Sundown: Turkish Jews Call for Calm

Plus the IDF targets Bar Refaeli, and more

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• The main Jewish interest group in Turkey warned that further tensions with Israel could increase anti-Semitism there. [Ynet]
• The Israeli military is urging a boycott of products endorsed by supermodel Bar Refaeli, due to her alleged draft-dodging—she married and immediately divorced, avoiding mandatory service. So maybe try to do without Passionata lingerie? [Arutz Sheva]
• Do you want to listen to a Yiddish-language cover of the Britney Spears song “Three”? Of course you do. [The Safeword is “Gemara”]
• 7,000 surviving victims of Nazi train transports have sued the German state rail company for compensation should it follow through on plans to expand routes to Polish lines. [Times of London/Vos Iz Neias?]
• Israeli police detained the editor of an English- and Arabic-language, West Bank-based news wire, and have threatened him with expulsion. They accuse him of entering Israel illegally. [Guardian]

Red Sox’s Youkilis Wins Best Jewish Player of ’00s

Though don’t forget Shawn Green!

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In an online poll conducted by card-producing company Jewish Major Leaguers, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis was voted the best Jewish baseball player of the last decade. Shawn Green, who played his best years with the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers, got second place, while Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun finished third.

A couple notes. First, I’d like to take a bow: I previously suggested Youkilis could be considered the ’00’s best Jewish athlete. Second, the objectively arbitrary terms of the debate—the best Jewish ballplayer from 2000-09—skew unfavorably against Green (who was fantastic in the late-’90s and early-’00s before petering out) and Braun (who was a rookie in 2007 and will almost certainly be the best Jewish ballplayer of, say, 2008-2017). Additionally, by Scroll law, every time we mention Youkilis we are obliged to link to this incredible clip.

Finally, the poll’s sponsor, Jewish Major Leaguers, is based … in Boston. So we wouldn’t be surprised if similar polls by them revealed that Larry Bird was the best basketball player of the 1980s, Drew Bledsoe was the best quarterback of the 1990s, and the Red Sox are the greatest team of all time.

Youkilis Wins Vote as Top Jewish Player in 2000s [JTA]

Earlier: Who Is This Decade’s Best Jewish Athlete?

A’jad Detects ‘Zionism’ in Scientist’s Murder

There is no fooling the Iranian president

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Ahmadinejad in Tehran last week.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

Regarding the Iranian physicist who was killed in a bomb blast in Tehran a few days ago, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a theory: the Jews did it. It’s not impossible, or even implausible, that Israel, or the United States, or some Western interest, launched the assassination in order to slow Iran’s nuclear program—a Haaretz columnist posited this yesterday. But Ahmadinejad is not theorizing—he has rigorous scientific proof. The physicist, you see, was killed in the “Zionist style”: “The depth of the enemies’ grudge can be seen in the university professor’s assassination,” he said. “The manner of bomb planting shows a Zionist style and they want to make sure that Iran would not advance.”

What exactly is he saying? Does this mean the killers arrived in Palestine around the turn of the last century to reclaim the land and establish a socialist utopia … and then planted the bomb? Did they work by day at their high-tech start-up, party by night in Tel Aviv’s clubs … and then plant the bomb? Or maybe Ahmadinejad is referring not to Israel but to the underground city of Zion from the Matrix movies? Or the Zion of the Bob Marley song “Zion Train”?

Either way, only time will tell whether Israel’s Zionist style is any match for Iran’s crouching-cricket kung fu style.

Ahmadinejad: Scientist Killed in ‘Zionist Style’ [Ynet]

Related: Iran Scientist Likely Killed By Opponents of Nuclear Program [Haaretz]

Breaking: Israeli Diplomats Attacked in Jordan

No injuries reported

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A convoy of cars carrying Israeli diplomats through Jordan was attacked by a roadside bomb (or perhaps a Molotov cocktail) Thursday evening, local time. No one was injured, and the Israeli ambassador was not present (and is reported safe). The diplomats were traveling from the capital city of Amman to Israel via the Allenby Bridge. They were able to continue after the attack, and have since arrived in Jerusalem. More as more information comes in.

Jordan: Roadside Bomb Against Israel Embassy Staff, None Injured [Arutz Sheva]
Israeli Diplomats Arrive in Jerusalem from Jordan [Arutz Sheva]

Former Tropper Sponsor Forced Into Psych Ward

Guma Aguiar is an energy tycoon, sports-team owner

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Aguiar last year.(Jerusalem Post)

A court ordered Guma Aguiar, the celebrity owner of Jerusalem’s soccer and basketball teams, to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital yesterday. The 32-year-old has reportedly been acting bizarrely of late; most recently, he explained his tardiness to a soccer match by claiming he had been visiting kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Aguiar, who made his millions in the energy industry, used to sponsor the charities of Rabbi Leib Tropper, the conversion guru whose sex scandal Tablet Magazine covered yesterday and today. Aguiar had a falling out with Tropper over allegedly misappropriated donations. He helped precipitate the current scandal by leaking audio tapes of conversations Tropper allegedly had with prospective converts in which he solicited them for sex.

Betar Sponsor in Psychiatric Hospital [JPost]

Related: Con Game [Tablet Magazine]
Converted [Tablet Magazine]

The Turkish To-Do: Turkey Wins, Israel Loses

Turks credit ‘wise man’ Peres

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Peres speaks at the Copenhagen summit last month.(Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images)

The diplomatic stand-off between Israel and Turkey, which stemmed from the the Israeli deputy foreign minister’s deliberate humiliation of Turkey’s ambassador, came to a close yesterday when the Turkish prime minister accepted the deputy foreign minister’s formal apology. Where are the various parties left after this?

• WINNER: Turkey. Yes, the Arab and Muslim worlds have a new cause célèbre. But even the broader international community perceives Turkey as the victim of tactless, condescending treatment that violated the extensive decorum governing diplomatic relations. Just as importantly, the world has basically forgotten what originally started all this: a Turkish TV series that depicted Mossad agents as bloodthirsty murderers, as well as extremely questionable comments about Israel from Turkey’s leaders.

• LOSER: Israel. Its unjustified actions are noted and condemned, while its justified grievances are ignored—and unlike when that usually happens, Israel can largely blame itself. Plus, Turkey now has cover to do what it was going to do anyway: cozy up to its neighbors to the east, Syria and Iran.

• WINNER: Shimon Peres. Blessed is the peacemaker! A Turkish diplomat credited Israel’s 86-year-old president with arranging the apology that resolved the burgeoning crisis: “You’re lucky you have Peres, the wise man of the Middle East,” he said. Peres’s legacy as the last rise-above-the-fray old-line Zionist probably did not need further buffing, but in case it did, his role in this affair should do the trick.

• LOSER: Danny Ayalon. The deputy foreign minister, a former ambassador to the United States, is an ambitious politician who might have been looking to make a name for himself while Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman—his boss and the leader of his right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party—is under police investigation. Instead, Ayalon is now being roundly condemned, with Yisrael Beiteinu members asserting that his career is over and even Peres throwing him under the bus.

• WINNER: Benjamin Netanyahu. Though the prime minister hasn’t been caught on-record saying so, various hints suggest that he at least tacitly supported Ayalon’s actions. Yet Ayalon, and to some extent Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu, took the blame, while Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party look like moderates by comparison.

• WINNER AND LOSER: The United States. When Israel’s image in the Arab and Muslim world suffers, so does America’s. Additionally, it is massively in the U.S. interest for Israel and Turkey, two important strategic U.S. allies, to have a strong relationship, and this latest affair won’t help what was already a deteriorating partnership. On the other hand, this affair frankly could have gotten a whole lot worse before it got better. Yet another country owes Peres its thanks.

Israel and Turkey Patch Up Rift Over a Diplomatic Slight [NYT]
Turkish Official: Israel’s Lucky To Have Peres [Ynet]
‘Ayalon’s Political Career Is Ruined’ [JPost]
Don’t Blame Israel For Ayalon’s Error [JPost]

Earlier: Trouble With Turkey

Today on Tablet

The Tropper sex scandal, from a woman’s side

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Staff Writer Marissa Brostoff—following up on yesterday’s article about the sex scandal surrounding conversion macher Rabbi Leib Tropper—tells the story from the opposite perspective: that of a woman, Shannon Orand, who approached Tropper about converting and was in turn allegedly solicited for sex. If you have the stomach for it, we have transcripts of some of Orand’s lurid phone conversations with (allegedly) Tropper. We’ll try to keep it clean(er) on The Scroll today.

Hamas’s Charming New TV Show

The Israeli-soldier character is, let us say, not the hero

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The hottest new animated children’s show on Hamas’s Al Aqsa TV is called A Special Mission. It follows a Palestinian Authority police officer named Bahlul—that’s Arabic for “buffoon”—who spends his days receiving U.S. sponsorship and slavishly kissing up to an Israeli soldier. The soldier wears sidecurls and a black hat and, in the first episode, machine-guns Palestinian children to death and drinks their blood. Bahlul responds: “You killed our children before my eyes. I will respond with even more peace.”

Truly grotesque and unreconstructed anti-Semitism aside, it is somewhat interesting that Hamas is so explicitly lodging anti-Palestinian Authority propaganda. Although it is clear that Hamas does not consider the P.A. to be its true enemy.

But, as they say, watch the whole thing:

UPDATE: Hamas has actually gone down this road before, using cartoons to propagandize against the P.A. In this 2007 cartoon, Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, who appears as a rat along with his rat-stooge Zionist-loving Fatah friends, destroys mosques and desecrates the Koran until he is stopped by the Hamas Lion, who was apparently kidnapped from Disney’s The Lion King to Gaza.

‘Toon In to Hate [NY Post via Vos Iz Neias?]

Daybreak: Turkey Tension Defused

Plus, Iran blames the U.S. for killing physicist, and more in the news

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• Turkey’s prime minister accepted a senior Israeli diplomat’s formal apology for humiliating Turkey’s ambassador, tentatively concluding the once-escalating tension between the countries. [NYT]
• The Iranian government explicitly blamed the United States for the death of the nuclear scientist slain in a Tehran bomb blast earlier this week. The White House press secretary called the charge “absurd.” [WP]
• Five Poles have already been arrested in connection with the recent theft of Auschwitz’s “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign, and now Polish authorities say they have figured out who the Swedish mastermind of the operation was. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]
• Murray Saltzman, a Baltimore-based Reform rabbi who was prominent in the civil-rights movement since the early 1960s, died at 80. [JTA]
• The Israeli Foreign Ministry made contact with four Israelis, including the daughter of late peace activist Abie Nathan, who were in Haiti when the massive earthquake struck. [JPost]

Please consider giving to the American Jewish World Service’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, here. Alternatively, you can text “Haiti” to 90999 to automatically donate $10 to the American Red Cross’s relief efforts.

Sundown: Jordan Demands Dead Sea Scrolls

Plus the slain Iranian physicist, Dysentery-a, and more

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• In a formal complaint to the United Nations, Jordan accused Israel of illegally seizing the Dead Sea Scrolls during the Six Day War, and demanded that they be returned. [JPost]
• Columnist Yossi Melman suspects that the Iranian physicist killed in Tehran yesterday was likely done in by some entity that wanted to slow the country’s nuclear program. [Haaretz]
• An anonymous former FBI agent has sued his old employer for firing him for being Jewish. He was let go under suspicions of questionable contact with officials from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. [JTA]
• Orthodox couples have happier and better marriages, say Orthodox couples. (Okay, okay, the poll was conducted by the University of Chicago, and sponsored by several Orthodox communities.) [Haaretz]
• Lefty (and not-infrequently Jew-y) journals Democratiya and Dissent merged. Perhaps the new hybrid will be called Dysentery-a. [Dissent]

Yiddish Theater World Mourns Late Star

Mina Bern remembered for her talent, killer chicken soup

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The New York Times has a great report from Chelsea’s Moonstruck Diner yesterday, where luminaries of what remains of Yiddish theater gathered to remember star Mina Bern, who died Sunday at age 98 (more or less). From the piece:

“It’s the end of an era,” said Corey Breier, president of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance. “Mina was the last European star of the Yiddish theater still working. She was the last connection, so it’s a real loss.” … Even into her 90s, Ms. Bern was known for rattling off lusty tales and bawdy songs and for cooking the best chicken soup on the Lower East Side. And she insisted on speaking Yiddish almost always and on expanding her speaking parts in scripts whenever possible.

Among those the Times interviewed is Shane Baker, one of the Yiddish theater world’s youngest and least Jewish (he grew up Episcopalian) members. Marissa Brostoff profiled Baker for Tablet Magazine last month.

Mina Bern, Matriarch of Yiddish Theater, Recalled Fondly [NYT]
Related: The Ventriloquist [Tablet Magazine]

Israel To Apologize Over Turkish Imbroglio

Deputy FM Ayalon, at center of storm, already said sorry

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Following Turkey’s threat to recall its ambassador if Israel did not formally apologize for its treatment of him, reports say that Israel is drafting a formal apology today. Prime Minister Netanyahu released a statement clarifying that “he backed the protest”—the whole to-do began over a Turkish television series that deployed anti-Semitic caricatures in portraying Mossad agents—“but had reservations over the way it was done”—that is, by deliberately humiliating the Turkish envoy.

The Deputy Foreign Minister who actually conducted the humiliation, Danny Ayalon, has already sent an personal apology to Ankara. It reads, in part:

Although we have our differences of opinion on several issues, they should be discussed and solved only through open, reciprocal and respectful diplomatic channels between our two governments. I had no intention to humiliate you personally and apologize for the way the demarche was handled and perceived. Please convey this to the Turkish people for whom we have great respect.

Unrelatedly (maybe), Turkey’s foreign minister, speaking in London today, announced his country’s continued desire for “excellent relations” with Iran and defended its nuclear program.

Ayalon Apologizes Following Turkish Deadline [Ynet]
Turkish Ultimatum: Apologize by Midnight or Ambassador Leaves [Arutz Sheva]
Turkish FM: Continuing ‘Excellent Relations’ With Iran [Arutz Sheva]

Earlier: Trouble With Turkey

The Crisis in Haiti

Israel, Jewish groups send help to displaced millions

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French aid workers today preparing to head to Haiti.(Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images)

Yesterday, an earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter scale hit Haiti. Thousands—maybe hundreds of thousands—are feared dead, and at least three million are thought to require emergency aid.

Israel has already sent a delegation of experts from the military Home Front Command to aid in the emergency and rebuilding efforts. Several Israeli and Jewish groups have also already begun pitching in.

At least three Israelis are missing; one of them is the daughter of late peace activist Abie Nathan. Israel’s ambassador, who is based in the neighboring Dominican Republic, has not been able to reach Jewish Haitians due to downed phone lines.

If you wish to donate to the American Red Cross, you can visit its Website. Alternatively, you can text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10. You can also donate to the American Jewish World Service’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund here.

Israel, Jewish Groups Sending Help to Haiti [JTA]

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