16 October 2019 - 17 Tishri 5780 - י"ז תשרי ה' אלפים תש"פ
Swastikas painted on iconic Bondi Beach murals E-mail

Late at night on 9 February, vandals painted dozens of swastikas on the worldfamous murals decorating the promenade of Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach. Earlymorning walkers and joggers alerted authorities to the vandalism the next morning.

The Jewish Agency for Israel head Isaac Herzog called the incident “a hateful attack” that “does not conform with Australian values of openness and inclusion”.

Municipal staff worked through the day to remove the swastikas, but some of the artwork will have to be repainted. Surveillance cameras are in use at the beach, but are primarily used to monitor those who decide to have a night-time swim. New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies President Lesli Berger condemned the vandalism, saying: “To say that the Jewish community is appalled at this expression of wanton racism is a severe understatement. The swastika represents the ultimate in race hatred, and all Australians of goodwill will stand together in condemning this shocking display.”

Local Mayor John Wakefield commented: “Five murals were defaced. Council have removed all symbols from the murals and at least one has to be completely redone.”

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In a week-long trip in January, Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Sekō led the largest-ever delegation of Japanese businessmen to visit Israel. Well over 90 representatives of major companies, including top executives from Mitsubishi, Toshiba and Hitachi, participated in the trip.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen met with Minister Hiroshige Sekō on 15 January. This was the Japanese minister’s third visit to Israel in the past four years, and was an additional milestone in the deepening of bilateral economic relations and commercial co-operation between the two countries.

“There’s been a tremendous increase in Japanese investments in Israel. In the last few years, Japanese investments in Israel have grown by a factor of 120. Last time I spoke it was 44 times bigger. It’s growing at an astronomical rate. Actually, it’s worth five billion dollars today, but it is growing very rapidly,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“Our relationship is a natural one. Prime Minister Abe and I agreed that we have to upgrade the economic relations, and this visit is part of that. I welcome you and your colleagues. We want to see more trade, more tourism, more investments in both directions. Welcome to Israel,” added Netanyahu. Some executives from Japanese corporations also met with Netanyahu.

During the visit, the two economy ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding about digital health and the advancement of bilateral co-operation in cyber and the automotive industry. In all, the two nations set up a total of six agreements. “We are starting to see the fruits of strengthening the economy between Japan and Israel,” Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen said at a meeting of the Japan Israel Innovation Network (JINN) Business Forum, during which the accords were signed. The business forum was set up in May 2017 to promote economic co-operation.

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North Korea ordered to pay compensation to US family after student’s death E-mail

A US court has ordered North Korea to pay US$501 million to the family of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old Jewish student who died in 2016 after being imprisoned there. 

In December, a District Court judge in Washington, D.C., awarded the Warmbiers approximately half the US$1.05 billion they had requested in their punitive damages lawsuit in April 2018.

Warmbier had been travelling to Hong Kong for a studyabroad programme when he decided to visit North Korea on a guided tour. While visiting that country in January 2016, he was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner. He was imprisoned by the North Korean government and suffered severe brain damage, but there were no external signs of physical trauma.

In June 2017, Warmbier was evacuated in a coma and was taken home to his family in Cincinnati. He died six days later in hospital. A North Korean spokesman denied that Otto Warmbier had been tortured while in custody, Fox News reported. 

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EU to map and protect cemeteries in Eastern Europe E-mail
In January, the European Union (EU) awarded close to US$1 million to a project that aims to map and survey at least 1,500 Jewish cemeteries in the continent’s east. 
The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (ESJF) announced the EU tender. Since the group’s establishment in 2015 with a grant from the German Government, it has helped protect over 120 Jewish cemeteries in seven Central and Eastern European countries. 
The mapping process will use state-of-the-art technology especially designed for the project. Around the cemeteries that ESJF maps and demarcates, the organisation typically sets up perimeter fences that it says dramatically reduce the risks to the sites. Eastern and Central Europe have well over 10,000 Jewish cemeteries facing various degrees of risk. 
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Israel ranks as world’s third-most-educated country E-mail

According to 2017 data recently released, compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Israel has outranked US and South Korea for the percentage of citizens aged 25-64 holding a degree in higher education, whether academic or vocational. 

OECD calculated the percentage of each country’s population between the ages of 25 and 64 who have completed a twoor four-year degree beyond high school – including both academic and vocational programmes. 

The data shows that 50.9% of Israelis in the target age bracket have a higher-education degree. The report noted that Jewish Israelis enter college at a later age than most Western counterparts because most serve in the military for at least two years after high school. 

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