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Israeli Tennis Star Ready for Flushing Meadows

Became cause célèbre after ban from Dubai tournament earlier this year

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Pe’er at a California tournamet in March.(Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Israeli tennis star Shahar Pe’er is makes her opening appearance at this year’s U.S. Open tomorrow, facing off against Hungarian player Agnes Szavay. Pe’er told Tablet Magazine in an email that she’s hoping to regain her footing after a season interrupted by political distractions.

Earlier this year, Pe’er found herself turned into a cause célèbre when she was denied a visa to play at a Barclays-sponsored tournament in Dubai just a couple of weeks after a cease-fire was declared in Gaza, allegedly over concerns for Pe’er’s own security. Venus Williams, who won the women’s side, publicly—though gently—criticized the tournament organizers for allowing Pe’er to be excluded, earning herself plaudits from the Anti-Defamation League, and American star Andy Roddick declined to defend his 2008 men’s title. “The Dubai issue was an important point in my life and career,” wrote Pe’er, who arrived in New York last week after being knocked out of the Rogers Cup in Toronto. “This incident has hurt me both personally and professionally—I was in a good run before Dubai and I was really looking forward to that tournament.” She said she wants to make sure that no other athlete from any other country ever has to face similar exclusion, but her more immediate concern is working her way back up from her current 63rd rank. “In past years—not last year—I did very well here, so good memories are something I love coming back to,” Pe’er said.

Meantime, she’s working overtime, appearing in an American Express-sponsored “rally experience” video game that fans can play on their cellphones. And she’s counting on the New York fans. “I always get a lot of support here from the crowd,” she said, “which I really love.”

Shahar Peer [U.S. Open Official Web Site]

Look, Jews in Baseball!

Fourteen in the majors this year, as columnists continually remind us

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Youkilis after striking out against the Yankees at Fenway on August 23.(Elsa/Getty Images)

As the pennant race gets underway, it’s time for the annual, “Look! Jews play baseball!” articles, like one in today’s Boston Globe and another in last week’s Connecticut Jewish Ledger. These articles invariably reference Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg before going on to talk about current icons like the Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. Of course, his year’s clichéd paeans are, arguably, a bit more warranted, as there are a record 14 Jewish major leaguers (three of whom—Youkilis, the Rockies’ Jason Marquis, and the Brewers’ Ryan Braun—played in the All-Star game). It’s more than enough to field a team—and even enough to make a minyan.

Bases Loaded, with Jewish Ballplayers! [Boston Globe]
A Grand Slam Decade for Jewish Majorleaguers [Jewish Ledger]

Gadhafi Banished From Garden State

Planned to pitch a suburban tent for U.N. confab

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Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will be coming to the United States to attend the U.N. General Assembly in a few weeks, but he’ll be confined New York City. He had planned to stay in a Bedouin tent at a Libyan government-owned estate in Englewood, New Jersey, right next to an Orthodox yeshiva. The visit, and Gadhafi’s prospective suburban headquarters, had fomented a small but heated controversy in the Garden State, with Governor Jon Corzine, Senator Frank Lautenberg, and a host of other officials angrily denouncing the plans. And, though relations between the United States and Libya have warmed since Gadhafi turned over the full contents of his nuclear program to weapons inspectors in the wake of the Iraq invasion, his standing his fallen here after he hosted a lavish homecoming in Tripoli for Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber who was released from his Scottish jail due to terminal health problems. Over the weekend, the Libyan government relented, saying Gadhafi will remain in Manhattan.

Qaddafi Cancels Plans to Stay in New Jersey [NYT]

On Tablet Today

Purity, equality, and literacy

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Sara Ivry talks to Varda Polak-Sahm, who has written a new book about the ritual power of the mikveh for Jewish women, on Vox Tablet, our weekly podcast. Marjorie Ingall weighs in on not putting her kids on the “gifted” track. Josh Lambert surveys the book scene, finding looks at liberalism, food, and architect Louis Kahn. And check back for lots more updates to our illustrious blog, The Scroll.

Olmert Indicted

Charged with fraud, breach of public trust

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Olmert after transferring power to Benjamin Netanyahu on April 1.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli prosecutors charged former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday with fraud and breach of public trust in three separate corruption scandals dating to his term as mayor of Jerusalem. According to the 61-page indictment, Olmert—who was forced from office nearly a year ago because of the investigation—overcharged state agencies and nonprofit groups for business travel and, perhaps more damningly, freely traded his influence as a politician to promote the business interests of his own donors and of his associates’ clients. (He is not, however, facing charges of bribery.) Olmert’s lawyers, who had plenty of time to prepare their response as the probe dragged on, immediately responded by welcoming the chance to refute the allegations in court. Olmert attorney Navot Tel-Tzur told Israel Radio this morning that the case will be “an embarrassment to prosecutors.”

Not, however, before it has become an embarrassment to Israel: Olmert now has the dubious distinction of being the first Israeli premier to be criminally indicted. He is hardly, however, the first senior pol to face charges—after all, Israel’s former president, Moshe Katsav, is currently being tried on rape and sexual harassment charges.

Ex-PM Charged Over Cash Envelopes, Double-Billing Trips and Cronyism [Haaretz]
Former Israeli Prime Minister Is Indicted [NYT]
‘Olmert Case Will Embarrass Prosecutors’[JPost]

Daybreak: Love’s Not Enough for Abbas

Olmert under fire, Arkansas pride, and more in the news

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• An aide says that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not resume talks with Israel without a full settlement freeze, no exceptions: “Mr. Obama, we love you … but I am sorry this is not enough to bring us to the peace process.” [Reuters]
• Former Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert has been formally indicted on charges of fraud and corruption for which he was pressured to resign from office last year; his adviser isn’t worried, after all, several other major investigations of Olmert have come to nothing. [Haaretz]
• The Associated Press is breaking new updates on a hot story: Madonna’s visit to Israel. So far, she’s been to the Western Wall. [AP]
• The Jewish community of Arkansas has completed its first locally made Torah scroll. [Today’s THV]
• Mystical artist Hyman Bloom died last week at 96. [NYT]

Sundown: Blogger Expected More ‘Inglourious’ Kvetching

Praise, slander, and a grand slam decade

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• A Beliefnet blogger wonders why he’s “not reading or hearing more from the Jewish community about the inglorious representation” of Jews in Tarantino’s latest film. [Beliefnet]
• The obvious answer: he’s not paying attention. Besides our own takedown, the Los Angeles Times rounds up a plethora of disturbed Jewish reactions to Inglourious Basterds, and Slate’s culture gabfest compares Tarantino to T.S. Eliot, in that “they’re both idiots when it comes to Jews.” [Slate]
• Martin Abramowitz, founder of Jewish Major Leaguers, Inc., says this has been the tribe’s best-ever decade on the diamond, and that “some combination of pride and performance is bringing Jewish baseball to a new level of attention in America.” [Jewish Ledger]
• Two Jewish schools in Argentina are being touted as role models for Jewish eduction. Their innovation? Making the schools good. [JTA]
• In Florida, however, a public school is facing its own religious problems: kids keep coming to school dressed as billboards for the ironically named Christian organization Dove World Outreach, in t-shirts that say “Islam is of the Devil.” [Gainesville Sun]

Madonna Booed in Bucharest

For anti-discrimination comments

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Madonna singing, not speechifying, in Bucharest.(Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)

So Madonna got booed in Romania’s capital, Bucharest, last night. Why? Well, because she took a moment in the middle of her “Sticky and Sweet” show to tell her fans that it made her “very sad” to learn that Roma, or Gypsies, are still discriminated against in Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe. Though the 60,000 fans apparently warmly applauded Madonna’s opening act, the Kolpakov Trio (a Russian group that includes two Roma and a Jew), they jeered and booed the pop diva’s impromptu lecture. “What business does she have telling us these things?” concertgoer Ionut Dinu asked the BBC. Madonna’s publicist, Liz Rosenberg, told the broadcaster that Madonna felt “compelled to make a brief statement” in solidarity after the Kolpakovs explained the situation. Now we can’t wait to see what else Madonna—sorry, Esther—is compelled to express next week, when the tour hits Israel.

Madonna Explains Gypsy Comments [BBC]
Gypsy Trio Criticizes Crowd for Booing Madonna [AP]

Deal Soon for Shalit?

Hamas political chief headed to Egypt for negotiations; German official to moderate

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Shalit in a family photo.(Shalit family via Getty Images)

Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas, will travel to Cairo next week to begin negotiating a deal to release kidnapped IDF solider Gilad Shalit, according to an Islamic newspaper in London. A German intelligence official is also scheduled to help moderate the negotiation among Israel, Hamas, and Egypt, according to Haaretz. Shalit has been in captivity for four years, and one of the stated objectives of last year’s Gaza War was to attempt to free him.

Report: Meshal to Fly to Cairo to Approve Shalit Deal [Haaretz]

Ang Lee Takes Woodstock

With the help of a Jewish, gay protagonist

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Taking Woodstock, Ang Lee’s adaptation of Elliot Tiber’s memoir about returning to the Catskills in the summer of ’69 to help his Jewish-immigrant parents save their motel (“his mother [Imelda Staunton, all mesmerizing rage] is a money-grasping neurotic, and his father [Henry Goodman, defeat personified] is just waiting to die,” writes The Stranger‘s critic), hits screens today. Reviews are fair to middling. Though the depictions of the counterculture and its clashes with the older folks lack the passion characteristic of Lee’s other works, “its modesty becomes it,” writes Stephen Holden in The New York Times, “given a subject that has become synonymous with overblown mythmaking.” In Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman regrets that instead of creating an Altman-esque tableau, viewers are mostly “watching Elliot, who is gay and scared, learn to give in to his feelings and defy his parents. He’s the ‘straightest’’ guy in the film (ironic!), but there’s a reason that no one at Woodstock ever chanted the slogan ‘Let the nice Jewish boy be free!’”

Concessions
[The Stranger]
What I Saw at the Countercultural Revolution [NYT]
Taking Woodstock [EW]

Catholic Sins, Jewish Redemption

‘Atlantic’ writer says Kennedy, other pols benefit from a Jewish view of atonement

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At the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library yesterday.(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

“There is a brutal calculus at the heart of one’s assessment of [Ted] Kennedy,” Mark Ambinder writes on his Atlantic blog. “Did his latter years make up for his serious, harmful transgression?” Ambinder is referring, of course, to the Chappaquiddick incident, in which Kennedy caused and then took his time in reporting the accidental death of a young woman—and he argues that “how one answers that question, I think, is as much a matter of how one views redemption.” In the political arena, he continues, Kennedy fares better according to a Jewish view of redemption as “an active, continuing process, one where doing good will hasten the coming of the Messiah” rather than a Christian version, “where the expiation of one’s sins are entirely the province of God, and not necessarily intelligible or accessible in our earthly lives.” Luckily for Kennedy, he concludes, the Jewish view is in fact the dominant one in contemporary American politics, despite frequent performances of born-again Christianity among politicians: even “Southern Baptist Bill Clinton’s rehabilitation is a work in progress, but Jewish in its character: he keeps his mouth shut and does good works.”

The Jewish Redemption Of Ted Kennedy [Atlantic]

Toronto Film Fest to Honor Tel Aviv, Controversially

Canadian, Israeli directors protest

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A handful of influential Canadian filmmakers are threatening to pull their works from the upcoming Toronto Film Festival if the prestigious festival carries out its plans for a cinematic salute to Tel Aviv. This year’s festival, to open on September 10, is set to include a retrospective of Israeli films about the city, which is celebrating its 100 anniversary this year. That tribute, say some filmmakers, is politically charged, as it promotes Israel as a cultured and enlightened country and covers up the horrors of the Palestinian occupation. The filmmakers—a small group that includes popular author Naomi Klein, acclaimed director John Greyson, and prominent video artist Richard Fung—stress that they are not opposed to the numerous Israeli films shown as part of the festival’s main program, but that they consider the retrospective to be ideologically tainted.

Israeli filmmaker Udi Aloni, who is part of the group calling for the boycott, called on Israeli filmmakers to join in. “Israeli filmmakers shouldn’t feel defensive,” Aloni told Haaretz. “They should say to their Canadian colleagues, ‘we stand with you, we don’t represent [Israeli foreign minister Avigdor] Lieberman, we represent the resistance.’ You can’t have it both ways.”

Toronto Festival: Directors protest Tel Aviv Tribute [Haaretz, in Hebrew]

Today on Tablet

Second careers, that teenage feeling, and the meaning of remembering

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Marc Tracy talks to two writers who made the switch from other professions. Eryn Loeb looks back at the sexy, provocative young adult novels of Norma Klein. Liel Leibovitz examines troublesome ideas of memory and forgetting in this week’s Torah portion. And updates to The Scroll continue all day.

U.S. Shift on E. Jerusalem: Bad, or Wrong?

One blogger is worried about the change, another doesn’t buy it

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(Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)

Haaretz reported yesterday that East Jerusalem is now exempt from the United States’ call for a settlement freeze in Israel, and the The Faster Times’s Dina Kraft worried. She was already anxious over a proposal recently submitted for approval to the Israeli government to build a huge new apartment complex in that part of the city, and a plan to raze 88 Arab houses to make way for a tourist park. She is concerned about the disparity between the “ramshackle” Arab homes and a well-appointed Jewish visitor’s center, and the possibility that Israeli obstinacy about the area is a “cynical attempt to make East Jerusalem as ‘Jewish’ as possible and foil any future attempts to divide the city as part of a future peace deal.” She interviews a researcher who worries what will happen to “the fabric of Arab-Jewish relations by inserting armed camps into Arab Jerusalem,” although he understands “the impulse to focus on a Jewish narrative in the face of Palestinian denials of a Jewish historic connection to the city.”

And then there’s this, which might assuage some of Kraft’s worries, although it’s worrisome in itself: Blogger Lara Friedman at Americans for Peace Now is skeptical of the claim that Israel’s been let off the hook when it comes to East Jerusalem expansion. The Haaretz reporter who broke the news, Barak Ravid, has been irresponsible before, she says, noting that “in this kind of high-stakes political poker, a lot of what we hear in the press is spin (and bluffing).”

The Jerusalem Puzzle: Jewish Enclaves in Arab Neighborhoods [Faster Times]Don’t Believe What You Read [JTA]
Earlier: U.S. Drops Call for E. Jerusalem Settlement Freeze

Daybreak: Obama Can’t Do Everything

Plus Tutu, Sendak, and more in the news

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• President Obama knows he should visit Israel as his support there dwindles, but right now he’s swamped with health care reform. [Ynet]
• Desmond Tutu tells Haaretz that Palestinians are paying the “penance” for the Holocaust, and compares Israel to South Africa, which only achieved “security when the human rights of all were recognized and respected.” [Haaretz]
• Ethiopian immigrant children in Israel are required to attend Jewish schools as part of their conversion process, but religious schools in the town of Petah Tikva are refusing to enroll them. [Jpost]
• Meanwhile, the nearby West Bank settlement of Samaria has offered to “absorb the students.” [Ynet]
• An exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s artwork will come to San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum on September 8. [Examiner]

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