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March 28, 2014

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PAGE 14A Travelers From page 1A rael's inability to consistently score below 3 percent on the visa refusals rate, a require- ment for countries seeking to join the program. An AIPAC- backed bill on enhancing the Israel-U.S. relationship that was introduced a year ago is stalled in the Senate in part because it would waive the 3 percent requirement. The corresponding bill in the House would not waive the requirement and this month passed overwhelmingly. For years, Israel had hov- ered around the 6 percent mark; in 2012, its rate of refusal was at 5.4 percent. In 2013, it rose to 9.7 percent. Israel was not the only country to see such a spike-- Hungary soared from 17 per- cent to 31.6 percent and South Koreashot up from 13 percent to 18.1percent--but Schumer in his letter blamed State Department preconceptions about young Israeli travelers. "After receiving inquiries from several constituents, my staffcontactedyour legislative affairs staff and learned that our consulates apparently have a policy to presumptively deny all tourist visa applica- tions for young Israeli nation- als who wish to visit the United States during the period in between the completion of their military service and the resumption of their university education," Schumer wrote. "When my staff asked your staff why this arbitrary policy toward Israel was in place, we were informed that the State Department is concerned that these young Israeli nationals were going to violate the terms of their visas by, for example, selling Dead Sea cosmetics at shopping malls across the United States." U.S. officials say consular officials are simply abiding by the law, which mandates that applicants for tourist visas are presumed to be potential violators of visa terms until they can prove otherwise. "When any individual makes a U.S. visa applica- tion anywhere in the world, a consular officer reviews the facts of the case and makes a determination of eligibility based on U.S. law," Pooja Jhunjhunwala, a State Department official, told The Hill newspaper on March 12. The State Department did not reply to multiple JTA requests for comment. Kerry, asked about the issue at a March 13 hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee, denied there was a policy to keep out the young Israelis. "Last year over 100,000 visas of all ages were issued, 20,000 were issued to Israelis aged 21 to 30 in each of the last fiscal years," Kerry said, replying to a query from Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). "Issu- ance rate is about 83 percent, which is not different from other folks in other places." Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) told JTA in an interview that that those numbers were not representative'. Kerry was referring to overall visitor visas for Israelis aged 21-30, said Meng, who wants more narrow data assessing how many Israelis between 21 and 27 were specifically denied tourist visas. "The fact that Something like this could be happening warrants further investiga- tion," she said. In addition to Deutch, Meng and Schumer, lawmakers pressing the administration to ease up on denials include Reps. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Af- fairs Committee, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). In a letter Meng sent to Kerry on Monday asking for the more detailed informa- tion, she wrote that many of the young Israeli applicants between military service and university studies deserve the break they are seeking through an American vacation. "Such traveling is a time- honored and venerable tradi- tion t:n Israel," she said. "This is the Israeli way of saying 'Thank you for your service.' While Israeli society asks its young adults to fight in the world's most dangerous places, it also affords them the opportunity to heal from the wounds of war and become citizens of the world." Schumer said the policy was denying the United States tourist dollars. "Let's punish the wrong- doers instead of making it impossible for young Israelis to come see our beautiful sites, eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels, and support all the jobs related to those activities," he said in a state- ment. "It makes no sense to deny tourist visas to all young Israelis simply because of the actions of a few." American diplomats and consular officials have mark- edly different views of the typical young Israeli traveler. A lengthy 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv that was released by WikiLeaks said itwas "culturally accept- able for postarmy Israelis to work illegally in the United States; key parts f the Dead Sea industry have been able to base a large part of their business models upon the employment of illegal work- ers." The phenomenon has be- come the main focus of the embassy's fraud detection Unit, the cable says, adding that officials suspect the numbers of Israelis illegally peddling the products in the United States are in the thou- sands. The cable describes reports of organized crime ties to the industry, saying that some of those working illegally have reported abuse, threats and extortion while on the job in the United States. Some of the products, the cable alleges, are not from the Dead Sea at all but likely originate in China or Central America. HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 28, 2014 The cable writer acknowl- edges that the breadth of the problem is inhibiting legitimate travel by post-army Israelis as well as Israel's quest to join the visa waiver program. "Aside from the criminal aspects of this fraud, a key implication is the increased visa revocation/refusal and denial of entry rates for post- army Israelis, which among other things, complicate Israel's high-profile desire to join the VisaWaiver Program," the cable said. The embassy runs PR cam- -paigns discouraging Israelis from misusing tourist visas to work illegally. A video on its website titled "The Price is Too High" and posted in 2011 outlines consequences for traveling under false pretenses, including being banned from the United States from between five years to life. Many of the online com- menters on the video were sympathetic to the embassy's pitch. "Good for the embassy," Sehara97 wrote in Hebrew. "Because of a band of money- chasing ne'er-do-wells, every Israeli has to suffer a grueling visa application process." One woman, a doctoral student in biology at the He- brew University of Jerusalem, told JTA that she and others who encountered obstacles in applying for visas understand that much of the blame lies with the Dead Sea scammers. "Those are the people giv- ing all of us a hard time," said the student, who asked not to be named in order not to jeopardize future travel to the United States. "We hate them as well. Because of those people all younger Israelis are getting a hard time." The student said she had obtained a visa to attend an academic conference in the United States only at the last minute. Others among her colleagues were not so fortunate, she said, adding that she believed increasing numbers of students in the sciences were choosing to attend seminars and confer- ences in Europe and not in the United States. Among the inhibiting fac- tors, the student said, were the nonrefundable $160 fee for a visa application and a lengthy application process for Israelis in the sciences. The embassy website says that Israelis "who work or study scientific and techni- cal fields" must detail their work and study background, list other countries visited over the past 10 years and provide a detailed itinerary. It warns that approval will take longer. It does not ex- plain why the extra materials are needed. "They have something against science people. We are considered a threat to the U.S.," the student said, adding that the experience has dis- suaded her from further travel to the United States. "I don't want to do this again and again, year after year," she said. Hadassah From page 1A cal to the hospital's recovery, but no explanation has been complete. Soon after a Feb. 11 Knesset committee hearing on the crisis, the health and finance ministries appointeda joint panel to investigate. Rec- ommendations are expected to be released this month. In Kaplan's view, the hos- pital's problems stem from a bad deal the hospital was pressured into reaching with Israel's government-funded health insurance companies. Israeli hospitals typically give volume discounts to the com- panies in an effort to attract more business, but Hadas- sah's appear to be larger than the average. In 2013, the hospital gave the insurance companies an average discount of 26 percent. A 2010 government report found that the nation- wide average that year was 18 percent. According to Kaplan, the ar- rangement effectively penal- izes Hadassah for performing more complex and expensive procedures. As a private hospi- tal, Kaplan said Hadassah also covers employee pensions and malpractice insurance that at public hospitals are paid for by the government. "The government didn't take care of us as it should have," Kaplan said. "They gave overly large discounts to the providers, even though we give the same kind of service to Israelis." The Hadassah women's or- ganization first noted the hos- pital's deteriorating finances in 2008 and asked administrators to make changes. At the time, the executive vice president of the women's organization, Barbara Goldstein, said the hospital had no idea which departments were making money and which were losing. The women's o.rganiza- tion funds nearly all of the hospital's research and de- velopment budget, including $250 million toward the construction of the Davidson tower. It funds 4 percent of the hospital's daily operations budget, and over the years also has stepped in to cover deficits in the $570 million operating budget. From 2000 to 2012, the organization gave $885 mil- lion to the hospital. The 2008 recession and the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, which cost the wom- en's organization tens of millions of dollars, hurt the group's ability to funnel large sums to the hospital. Goldstein told JTA that the women's organization has appointed a representative to attend hospital board meet- ings in an effort to exercise greater oversight. But she also acknowledged that the organization's willingness to make up for past budgetary shortfalls contributed to the current crisis. "They always think we'll always come through," Gold- stein said. "There were many times when a director-general called and said, 'Maccabi owes us 20 million, can we borrow it from you?' It's like loaning money to kids." Unlike his predecessors, Kaplan is not a physician. He holds a doctorate in medical administration and previously served as the CEO of Israel Aircraft Industries. He told JTA that the key to resolving the crisis is cutting staff and salaries. Goldstein predicted that Kaplan will have the hospital on a sound financial footing within five years. Hospital staffers understand that cuts will be a necessary part of the restructuring, she said. "I don't think they'll strike again," Goldstein said. "Either they're going to survive and move forward, or there's going to be nothing." Dollinger From page 2A age to Shanghai] as a surreal vacation being on first class, especially after being treated so shabbily in Austria," Vogel said. In Shanghai, the Doll- ingers lived in the crowded and impoverished ghetto HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man and General Maintenance Air Conditioning  Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 to which stateless refugees were restricted, and Gisela worked for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which was dis: tributing clothing and other aid there. In December 1948, exactly 10 years after leavingAustria, the Dollingers departed China for the nascent State of Israel. After the hardships of the Shanghai ghetto and the typhus bout, Dollinger and her husband were leery of life in a new and embattled country, even though most of Dollinger's relatives were there, Vogel said. Since Ber- nard had sisters in the United States who urged them to come, the couple moved to New York in 1950. They soon settled in a rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment in the East Village, where she would live more than 60 years. He painted houses, she worked at an envelope factory. The couple frequently hosted friends for bridge games. When they received reparations money from Germany for a relative who had been killed in the Holocaust, they put the entire sum into a scholarship fund at an Israeli university. (Vogel was not sure which one.) Despite their relatively modest circumstances, Doll- inger, whose father had sold men's and women's clothing in Austria, was a sharp dresser, Vogel said. "By touch she could tell a fabric and its quality," she said. "She was a size 6 all her life except near the end, and all her clothes were absolutely, completely fitted. "She was avery elegant lady, very concerned about the ap- pearance she gave. She wasn't vain, but she had just been taught that when you go out, or even when you're at home, you get dressed and present your best foot forward." What was the secret to her extremely long life? Vogel said Dollinger partici- pated in an academic study on longevity among Ashkenazi Jews, and that aside from be- ing blessed with good genes, her great-great aunt thought "maybe her purpose was to bring together the far-flung relatives." "She served as the uniter of the family--she had nieces and nephews in Argentina, Switzerland, England, Is- rael and Austria," Vogel said. "She became the place where people connected and the pur- veyor of info:mation. When she was too old to get out much, her currency became the stories people told her." Dollinger and her husband had postponed having their own children for various rea- sons-the war economy in Austria, the Nazis, the difficult life in wartime Shanghai-- and by the time they reached the United States, where raising a child was possible, Dollinger was already in her late 40s. "She had up until the end the most phenomenal mem- ory-she knew if someone's baby was due, if someone was up for a new job, if someone was on vacation--she always had this list of things in her head," Vogel said. "Everyone who called, she knew what was going on in their life. She really cared." Dollinger kept up not just with her family's news but with current events, making a point of voting in every elec- tion, Vogel said. In his 2008 victory speech, President-elect Obama refer- enced a 106-year-old voter who had been profiled on CNN. Upon reading about it in The New York Times, Dollinger, who was the same age, ap- parently said, "They should've written about me, but I'm not a publicity hound." Although she died at Beth Israel on March 10, having checked in a few days before her death, Dollinger managed to remain in her home, with the help of caregivers, until the end. In her final 10 years, rela- tives suggested Dollinger consider moving to an assisted living facility. Vogel said "she was absolutely against it." "She didn't want to be around old people," she said.