JTA NEWS
24 March 2017 - 26 Adar 5777 - כ"ו אדר ה' אלפים תשע"ז
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Australia welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu E-mail

After visiting Singapore, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife were welcomed by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy on 22 February at the start of a four-day visit to the country. Prime Minister Netanyahu inspected an honour guard and received a salute.

“I’m honoured to be the rst Israeli Prime Minister to officially visit Australia. God, it’s been a long time coming! It celebrates, really, 100 years of friendship of Australia to the Jewish people and their state,” commented Prime Minister Netanyahu.

On his first day in Australia, Mr Netanyahu repeated several times how much the country had done for Israel – from liberating Beersheba in WWI to playing a key role in the establishment of Israel as a state in 1947. “We are going to celebrate this and I’ve invited you, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and your delegation to mark this extraordinary event,” Netanyahu added.

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First Jewish wedding in Cambodia E-mail

As the sun set over Phnom Penh on 8 February, locals, tourists and guests from all over the world gathered for the first Jewish wedding to be celebrated in Cambodia.

The bride, Shlomit (Irina), had met Rabbi Bentzion and Mashie Butman, co-directors of Chabad Jewish Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, several years ago and began her journey to Torah observance.

The groom, Vadim Mitropolitansky, is an Israeli who now lives in Bangkok, Thailand. When the two decided to tie the knot, they chose to do so at the Chabad centre in Phnom Penh.

Local Cambodians, friends, relatives and Chabad families from both countries swirled in dizzying circles, following the lively music supplied by the keyboardist who had own in from Israel for the occasion. “In times of joy, as well as sadness, community takes the place of family in this part of the world, where most Jews are here without family,” says Rabbi Butman.

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New ambassador to China appointed E-mail

Zvi Heifetz has been appointed Israel’s new ambassador to China. Ambassador Heifetz arrived in January and replaces Ambassador Matan Vilnai.

Prior to his appointment in China, Ambassador Heifetz was Israel’s ambassador in Russia. He was born in Tomsk, Russia, and moved to Israel in 1971.

Heifetz was also Israel’s Ambassador to Austria from 2013 to 2015 and has held many government positions. He studied law at Tel Aviv University in 1985 and is a Member of the Israeli Bar Association.

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Taiwan school representatives meets Israel’s envoy in Taipei E-mail

Representatives from a high school in Hsinchu City paid a visit to the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei to apologise after a campus event featuring students wearing Nazi costumes and displaying swastikas sparked a public outcry.

As reported in Jewish Times Asia in last month’s issue, the Nazi parade took place on 23 December as part of Hsinchu Kuang Fu High School’s activities to celebrate the school’s foundation day. The ensuing public outcry resulted in the resignation of school principal Cheng Hsiao-ming Israel’s Representative in Taiwan Asher Yarden listened to the students’ apology and explanation, and said he forgave them and looked forward to future opportunities for educational exchanges with the school, the office said.

He also accepted a poster made by the students, which took the symbol of the Israeli office as its centre, with the students’ personal reflections on the incident written on leaves surrounding it.

Cheng, who led the students to the Israeli office as his final act before resigning, also invited the office’s staff to visit the school and speak to staff and students there.

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Anti-Semitic incidents up in the UK E-mail

The UK’s main watchdog group on anti-Semitism reported a record 1,309 incidents in 2016, a 36% increase over the 2015 tally.

Of the anti-Semitic incidents recorded last year by the Community Security Trust (CST), 107 were cases of physical assault, compared with 87 in 2015, the report said.

While the 2016 figure in the assault category was the highest since 2010, the bulk of incidents – 1,006 of them – belonged to the category of “verbal and written anti-Semitic abuse”, which covers emails, letters, text messages and tweets.

The increase is not attributable to any specific trigger, as has been the case in years when fighting broke out between Israel and its enemies, the report said.

Instead, CST cited a “combination of events and factors”, including an unprecedented public debate about anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, terrorist attacks in Western countries and the June 2016 referendum, in which a majority of voters supported a British exit from the European Union.

“CST did record a small number of anti-Semitic incidents during 2016 that made direct reference to the European Union or to Brexit, but not enough to explain, on their own, the overall high total for the year,” the report said in reference to the referendum, which British police said triggered a slew of hate crimes, though not many against Jews.

“These events, and their subsequent discussion in mainstream and social media, provided material and motivation for anti-Semitic hate incident offenders,” CST wrote.

Another factor driving the increase was the growing awareness to the importance of reporting anti-Semitic incidents, CST noted, though it is still likely “that there is significant underreporting of antiSemitic incidents”.

One assault in January 2016 in London involved six Jewish schoolgirls wearing Jewish school uniforms. On their way home from school, the girls were assaulted and verbally abused by two older girls, one of whom appeared to be wearing a Muslim headscarf.

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