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November 6, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 2A s HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 06, 2009 By Marcy ester JERUSALEM (JTA)--Af- ter the news broke in Israel that a West Bank Settler was -charged with murdering two Pale [tinians in 1997 and bombing the home of a prominent Israeli professor last year, many Israelis were asking why it took police So long. On Sunday, Nov. 1, Israeli authorities lifted a gag or- der on the arrest of Yaakov (Jack) Teitel, a 37-year-old American immigrant living in the settlement of Shvut Rachel, on-a variety of "charges dating back to the murders of a Palestinian cab driver and shepherd. Teitel is also charged with planting several explosive devices in 2006 and 2007 directed at Arabs, Christians and police; sending a bomb hidden in a Purim gift basket to a messianic Jewish fam- ily that left a 15-year-old boy seriously injured; and planting a pipe bomb in 2008 near the Jerusalem home of Zeev Sternhell, a prominent left-wing academic. Some Israeli commenta- tors suggested that had Teitel limited his attacks to Palestinians, Israeli authorities would have left the investigations into the attacks on Palestinians grow cold. "Teitel's fatal error was turning on other Jews," Ha'aretz columnist Gideon Levy wrote Nov. 2. "Had he been satisfied with acts of murder against the Pales- tinian population, he would never have been caught." Teitel had been arrested in 2000 upon entering Israel after intelligence reports suggested that he had com- mitted the 1997 .murders, but he was released due to 'lack of evidence. Despite suspicions about his role in the murders, Teitel was granted a license to carry a handgun. On Oct. 7, a joint police- Shin Bet operation arrested Teitel while he was in the Orthodox Jerusalem neigh- borhood of Har Nof hanging up posters supporting last summer's attack on a gay and lesbian club in Tel Aviv. Israeli Police Handout/Flash90/JTA Yaakov ~Jack" Teitel sits in an Israeli police vehicle after being arrested in October in the West Bank settlement Shvut Rahel for killing two Palestinians in 1997 and other attacks. Police said Teitel confessed to attacking the gay and to the 1997 murders and lesbian club, but the Shin several other attacks. He Bet said he was not the also reportedly confessed gunman. Police officials said Teitel had been under surveillance for a time but had been very careful to conceal his activities and refrain from perpetrating attacks while under surveillance. After the more recent attacks, authorities were able to ascertain a pattern linking Teitel to the crimes dating back to 1997. Originally from Florida, Teitel made aliyah in 2000, though he moved back and forth between Israel and the United States for the past 20 years, according to reports. He has four young children. Police said that Teitel, a loner who never learned Hebrew, became a weapons expert, and a search of his Shvut Rachel home turned up a cache of weapons and explosives. His attorney, Adi Keidar, said at a news conference Nov. 1 that Teitel is "men- tally unstable" and believes Divine visions guided his acts. Figures from the left and right in Israel questioned why it took authorities so long to catch up with Teitel. Some used the news of the arrest as an opportunity to condemn Jewish settle- ments in the West Bank as a haven for extremists. Sup- porters of the settlements called such characteriza- tions unfair. "Acts of the kind allegedly committed by Yaakov Teitel are grave, prohibited and unacceptable," Danny Day- an, chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements, said Nov. 1. "Any person of con- science in Israel must rise up in indignation against such acts, as well as against any despicable attempt to use them to gain political capital by blaming an en- tire community that is not connected--and is in fact vehemently opposed--to such actions." The arrest came just days following Israel's com- memorations of the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing extremist. The Hebrew anniversary of the assassination was last week. By Dina Kraft JERUSALEM (JTA)--Fresh in his post as chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky stood before the organization's leaders in the same dimly lit Jerusalem hotel ballroomwhere they have been gathering for years and offered up the promise of his star power and vision to help save the day. Eschew!ng the usual talk of the agency's flailing budget, which is now in a deeper crisis than ever, the former Soviet dissident and Jewish world hero spoke instead of returning to the Jewish Agency's ideo- logical roots ofaliyah and Jew- ish identity, and reinvigorating the Diaspora-Israel divide. But in order to meet these lofty goals, Sharansky first must meet another chal- lenge: the drastic downturn in funding from the Jewish Federations of North America (formerly the United Jewish Communities), which has had an especially crippling effect on the agency's work in the former Soviet Union. His main effort on that front, Sharansky told JTA, would be fund raising intensively among Russian-speaking Jews. "The time has come for the Jewish community there to take responsibility for their own Jewish institutions," sharansky said in a brief in- terview following his opening address to the agency's board of governors meeting Nov. 22. How Sharansky, who has promised no further cuts to the 2010 budget, will achieve this is not clear. Jewish Agency board mem- bers are hopeful Sharanskywill be able to deliver on promises to meet the cut in federation funding, which is expected to reach at least $15 million in 2010. In 2009, the federations gave the Jewish Agency $120 million, though the initial bud- getaUocationwas $138 million. The situation is so dire that the Jewish Agency's treasurer sent out an e-mail several months ago to the board of governors suggesting the agency was in danger of going bankrupt. According to agency offi- cials, core budget funding to the former Soviet Union has dropped from $17 million in 2002 to $3 million for 2010. Sharansky's plan is not only to turn to Russian-speaking community members in the hope that they will become the financial backbone of the agency's endeavors in the former Soviet Union, but to intensively lobby North American Jewish communi- ties on a fund-raising drive. His immediate plans are for a 12-city tour in North America to convince federations to restore their cuts to funding for the agency. "The money is there and we can tap into it," said Carole Solomon, a former chair of the agency's board. Solomon suggested that Jewish philanthropy was being diluted as organizations and foundations give to individual, smaller projects instead of big organizations such as the Jewish Agency, known by the acronym JAFI. "Sharansky is a unique em- issary of the Jewish people and can help redirect those funds as more and more people come to understand the validity of the Jewish Agency," she said. Harvey Wolfe, a board mem- ber from Montreal, agreed. "This is a man who was in Call Jeff at 407-834-8787 Brian Hendler Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky (r), watching a slide presentation and listening to University of Bar Ilan professor Gerald Steinberg speak on the Goldstone report during a board of governors committee meeting in Jerusalem on anti-Semitism, Oct 26. prison for years whose freedom came in part from the battles waged by the Jewish world, including the Jewish Agency, and now he is the chairman of the Jewish Agency himself," he said. "Who better than him to now represent JAFI to the Jewish world?" When it comes to the former Soviet Union, Michael Chle- nov, a veteran of the Jewish community in Moscow who happened to be Sharansky's first Hebrew teacher back in 1973, voiced some skepticism. "The fact that Sharansky is in this position is definitely positive;' he said. "But from the Russian point of view, JAFI was practically killed off in the last year because of the successive cuts. Jews in the FSU have begun to question JAFI's role in the community as an important organization. "The symbolism of Sharan- sky as chairman does give hope, but how he will pull off the challenge is not so simple. It's not clear if people will put money into an organization some consider half-dead." Chlenov, an anthropology professor and secretary gen- eral of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, advised the Jewish Agency to make sure to balance its focus on aliyah with Jewish community building ifitwants to boost itself in the eyes of Jews in the former Soviet Union. At a meeting of the Jewish Agency's FSU Committee, the focus was on the prospect of saving programming there on a shoestring budget. Due to cuts, the number of emissaries working in the region has been slashed dramatically. During the 2008-09 budgetyear, there were 200 agency emissaries, or schlichim, in smaller com- munities. For 2009-10, the number has been reduced to 90. The idea of mobile emis- saries has been instituted to help fill the void, officials said. Agency-run ulpan Hebrew classes had their funding cut entirely. The ulpans that survived were kept afloat by students who could afford to pay tuition. Alex Katz, who heads the agency's FSU department, painted a dire picture. "There is chaos when it comes to decision-making," he said. Katz argued for more in- volvement by local Jewish community members and for not relying on direction from Israeli staff members. Michael Yedovitsky, who heads the agency's education programs in the former Soviet Union, also argued for local Jewish leaders to be more involved in planning and run- ning programs. He described the past year as a "struggle to minimize the damage of the cuts, a year of rescue, of preservation." Later, in an interview with JTA, Yedovitsky said, "This pastyearwas like the Battle for Moscow. But next year will be like the Battle for Stalingrad." The fighting in Moscow in World War II was about hold- ing the line, but the battle in Stalingradwas aturning point in the war. For his part, Sharansky himself stressed the impor- tance he staked of maintaining high-quality programs, in- cluding those related to Jewish identity and Zionist education in the former Soviet Union. "I have seen the results of the agency's 20 years of work in the region," he said, "but also the tragic consequences of stopping them in the middle."