The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Extremists plan protest against Kotler
Actor and director Oded Kotler left his home in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening at the recommendation of Israel Police, after right-wing activists Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben Gvir brought haystacks to the lobby of the building where he lives ahead of a planned protest.
Ben Gvir said: “Don’t delude yourselves: he was speaking about the entire right wing. Their racism is against all of us. They are in fact primitive and medieval people, those who speak for freedom of expression and pluralism.”
Earlier this week, at a meeting in protest of recent comments by Culture Minister, Kotler disparaged a group of people he called “cud-chewing animals,” but later explained that he was referring to humanity as a whole and not just right-wing Likud voters. He was panned for his remark across the political spectrum and his explanation was not widely accepted.
According to Haaretz, police warned Kotler that the protest may turn violent and recommended he temporarily leave his home. According to the report Kotler received threats on his life through the internet and by telephone.
PM has no comment on Michael Oren’s op-ed
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects an American request to publicly distance himself from opinions voiced by Michael Oren criticizing the Israel policies of US President Barack Obama.
Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the US, penned an op-ed that was published in the Wall Street Journal on Monday. After the op-ed brought in its wake an angry phone call from US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, the party in which Oren is currently an MK, Kahlon sent a letter to Shapiro emphasizing that Oren’s views were his own and did not reflect the party line of Kulanu.
Oren, according to Kahlon’s letter, stuck by his views and said he would not take back his words. His op-ed comes ahead of the publication of his book “Ally,” which he wrote about his time as an Israeli diplomat in the US.
According to Haaretz, Shapiro also called Netanyahu several hours after the publication of Oren’s op-ed.
Netanyahu refused Shapiro’s request and said he had no intention of publicly addressing the op-ed. A Haaretz request to hear the prime minister’s view of the issue was answered with a statement saying the Prime Minister’s Office is not willing to comment, the paper reports. Shapiro refused to comment on the content of his call with Netanyahu.
On Wednesday evening, John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, said that Oren’s claims were not accurate and did not reflect the reality of US-Israeli ties when Oren was a diplomat.
This morning, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said “Oren’s words are not in line with reality.”
Large brush fire near Kiryat Shmona
A large brush fire broke out near the entrance to Kiryat Shmona, in the north of Israel. The nearby Manara Cliff National Park was evacuated for fear that the fire could spread there.
Eight fire and rescue teams are battling the flames, assisted by four helicopters, Ynet reports. For now, residents of the southern neighborhoods of Kiryat Shmona do not have to evacuate.
The local fire and rescue service initially thought the fire could spread quickly due to strong winds.
Separately, a fire broke out at a junkyard in Majdal Krum, a village in the north.
Bank of Israel unveils new NIS 200 bill
The Bank of Israel is giving producers, suppliers and operators of automated teller machines first examples of the new NIS 200 bill, which will be blue and feature the portrait of poet Natan Alterman.
The bill follows the design of the new NIS 50 bill, which entered circulation in September 2014.
The bill’s final design details are yet to be finalized but it will share many aspects with the recently introduced NIS 50 bill. The NIS 200 bill, like the NIS 50 bill, incorporates novel, hi-tech anti-counterfeit elements, including transparent ink and micro-perforation.
6-year-old hit by bus in Jerusalem
A six-year-old girl was hit by a bus in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood.
Hatzalah volunteers arrived at the scene and gave the girl preliminary care before she was taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in moderate condition.
A volunteer for Hatzalah says: “I got to the scene within 30 seconds of receiving a call since I live nearby. The girl, returning from school, crossed the road near the exit from the Givat Shaul neighborhood and was hit by a bus… The bus that hit the girl was full of passengers. Miraculously, there were no casualties among the passengers.”
49% of Israelis back Oren’s views on Obama
A new Knesset Channel poll reveals that nearly half of Israelis agree with the opinion of Kulanu MK Michael Oren, who believes US President Barack Obama is mostly responsible for the deterioration of US-Israeli ties.
Forty-nine percent of respondents said they agree with Oren, who said both Netanyahu and Obama made mistakes, but Obama made them “deliberately.”
The survey also asked whether Netanyahu should meet with Obama after a nuclear deal is signed with Iran. 68% responded positively, while 17% said Netanyahu should not meet Obama.
MKs to meet in Haifa to ‘save Al-Midan Theater’
Palestinian artists and employees of several organizations will hold an “emergency meeting” on Saturday at the Al-Midan Theater in Haifa. The conference aims to form a united stand and announce a “popular committee for defending Palestinian culture,” organizers say in a statement.
The conference also aims to coordinate practical steps against a recent decision by the Culture Ministry, the Education Ministry and the Haifa Municipality to freeze funding for the theater over its production of “Parallel Time,” which tells the story of Palestinian prisoners and is based on the life of a Palestinian convicted for involvement in the kidnapping-murder of an Israeli soldier.
Among the speakers at the conference will be “Parallel Time” director Bashar Murkous, actor Yussef Abu Varda, MK Ahmad Tibi, MK Hanin Zoabi and others.
The organizers call on artists, media personalities, employees of cultural institutions and Palestinian civil society groups in Israel to join the Al-Midan Theater’s struggle “from an understanding that the Arab public right for expression and creation is in peril.”
Recent government steps, they say, are “a brutal attack by the authorities against the freedom of creation and expression. The culture minister is threatening to freeze funding for anyone who does not agree with her racist views and the education minister makes fascist decisions.”
PM wants accelerated probe into church arson
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructs Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen to conduct an accelerated investigation into the torching of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee.
The church was set ablaze late Wednesday night.
The prime minister also speaks out sternly against the torching, and says that “the shocking arson of the church is an attack on all of us. Israel’s freedom of religion is a keystone of our values and is anchored in the law. Justice will be served to those responsible for this atrocious act. We will give no quarter to hatred and intolerance in our society.”
— Eytan Weinstein
Antwerp school warns pupil’s mother to dress modestly
The management of a Belgian Jewish Orthodox school threatens to take “unpleasant steps” against a pupil’s mother because she does not dress modestly enough.
The threat came in a letter that the management of the Jesode Hatora — Beth Jacob School in Antwerp recently addressed to the mother of the pupil, the Belgian Jewish weekly Joods reported. Fons Duchateau, Antwerp’s alderman in charge of diversity, criticized the state-funded school and summoned its management to provide explanations for the letter, the Gazet van Antwerpen daily reported.
“Unfortunately, there has been a weakness on your behalf in adhering to some of the above rules,” management wrote in an English-language printed letter addressed to the mother, who was not named. The letter included a dress code to which mothers of pupils attending the school were required to adhere “at all times and especially at all school activities, i.e., bringing/fetching school parties and parent-teacher meetings.
“Further noncompliance with the school will result in unpleasant steps being taken, which we want to avoid if at all possible,” management wrote to the mother in the letter, which appeared on a Facebook forum called Jesode Hatorah — Beth Jacob Watch.
Alderman Duchateau told the Gazet that she supports freedom of religion for faith communities, but “tying school choices to wardrobe choices is beyond going too far.” Hilde Crevits, education minister for Flanders — the autonomous Belgian region whose capital is Antwerp — called for a review of the dress-code issue in schools following the publications about the letter.
Rivlin send Erdogan condolences on Demirel’s death
President Reuven Rivlin sends a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, expressing his condolences over the passing of Suleyman Demirel, Turkey’s ninth president.
Rivlin expresses his deep sympathy to the Turkish people and the grieving family of Demirel, whom he calls a great statesman.
Demirel was the first Turkish president to host his Israeli counterpart on Turkish soil and worked to increase Israeli-Turkish relations.
Rivlin sends the letter despite the rift in Israeli-Turkish ties and Erdogan’s consistent criticism of Israel.
Church shooter identified as Dylann Roof
An intense manhunt is underway Thursday for a young, white man who joined a prayer meeting and then opened fire inside a historic black church in downtown Charleston, killing nine people, including the pastor. Authorities call it a hate crime.
Charleston police identified the suspect as Dylann Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina. He may be driving a black Hyundai, police spokeswoman Barbara Vaughn said.
“This is a very dangerous individual,” Police Chief Greg Mullen said during a Thursday morning news conference.
The gunman stayed for nearly an hour at the prayer meeting Wednesday night before shooting the victims — six females and three males, Mullen said.
The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, was among those killed, State House Minority leader Todd Rutherford told The Associated Press.
Pinckney, 41, was a married father of two who was elected to the state House at 23, making him the youngest member of the House at the time.
Church shooting suspect caught, reports say
Local media report that Dylann Roof, suspected of the shooting in which nine people are killed in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, was caught by police officers in Shelby, North Carolina.
Palestinians to submit first file to ICC next week
The Palestinians will submit their first file to the International Criminal Court next week in their bid to open criminal proceedings against Israel, an official says on Thursday.
The move is part of an increased focus on diplomatic maneuvering and appeals to international bodies by the Palestinians, who have been frustrated by a lack of progress in ending the Israeli occupation and creating their own independent state.
The file is to be handed to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on June 25, and will detail alleged violations of international law by the Jewish state, Palestinian Foreign Ministry official Ammar Hijazi tells reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
On April 1, the Palestinians formally joined the ICC with the goal of trying Israeli leaders for alleged abuses during last summer’s war in the Gaza Strip, and alleged crimes relating to the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The file is “only general, it’s only statistical,” Hijazi said.
“But it certainly draws a grim picture of what Israel is doing and why we think that there are reasonable grounds… for the prosecutor to start [her] investigations.”
Eichler calls Women of the Wall perpetrators of ‘hate crimes’
Member of Knesset Yisrael Eichler, of the United Torah Judaism party, says the Women of the Wall reading from a Torah at the Western Wall this morning are “no less dangerous than the vandals who attacked the Christian site on the Sea of Galilee.”
Eichler is referring to the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes which was set alight Wednesday night. He asks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn the activity of the group, which “shocked the entire Jewish world.
“Vandals in both places are to be condemned, since they can bring hate crimes to Israel and the entire world. Whoever condemns, and justifiably so, hate crimes against Christians and understands it can bring bloodshed, must condemn the hate crimes against ultra-Orthodox Jews, for the holiness of the Torah scrolls in the Western Wall,” Eichler writes to Netanyahu.
Lapid: Church arson threatens ‘fabric of relations between population groups in Israel’
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid refers to the church arson during a tour of the north.
He states, “The act at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes is more than criminal. It threatens the fabric of relations between population groups in Israel. It is the result of violent discourse in the country — some of which politicians are inflaming — and it has to stop.
“It is time for us to remember that our greatest test is not when we agree with one another, but when we disagree,” he continues. “Can we remain civil? Can we remain united?
“I condemn this disgraceful act, and I’m sure others across the political spectrum do as well,” adds Lapid.
PA minister says Palestine 48 TV station is ‘completely legal’
Palestinian Authority Communications Minister Riad Hassan says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to close the Palestine 48 TV channel, because Israel fears the existence of media outlets that will present to Israeli Arabs the deliberate discrimination from which they suffer.
According to Ynet, Hassan claims the station will not be a political channel, but a tool for realizing the freedom of expression of the residents. He adds that even though Netanyahu’s wish is to be expected, no one will be able to close the channel.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu instructed the Communications Ministry — which he heads as the acting minister — to examine the legality of the station, which only this week announced its launch.
The station is scheduled to go live today, the first day of Ramadan.
Obama says US needs to address gun violence
A clearly frustrated President Barack Obama says the United States should look again at how killers get their hands on guns, after what he calls “senseless murders” at a historic black church.
“Now is the time for mourning and for healing, but let’s be clear — at some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” Obama said.
Protesters will greet Miri Regev at award ceremony
Culture Minister Miri Regev, expected to arrive at a ceremony tomorrow of theater prizes, will be met with demonstrators who will be protesting her “silencing” of any dissident voices, Channel 2 reports.
In a recorded interview ahead of an in-depth interview with Regev that will appear in “At,” a women’s Hebrew-language magazine, the minister says she is reluctant to accept the portfolio because “You know, in welfare, you always get thanks, and people show gratitude, even if you failed. And here in culture, I know I’m going to work for a bunch of thankless people.”
Barkat welcomes fencing world champ to Jerusalem
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat hosts Constantin Vronov, 19, who immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine two weeks ago with his parents.
Constantin is a world champion in fencing. He will continue training with the support and subsidization of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and its services in Jerusalem.
Vronov is accompanied by his coaches. Upon meeting Barkat, he presented the mayor with the sword with which he won the world championship.
Regev says ‘only some’ artists are ‘tight-asses’ and ‘tedious’
When Miri Regev described artists as being a “tight-ass” and being “tedious,” she meant only the likes of Oded Kotler and Yair Garbuz, an Army Radio journalist quotes the culture minister as saying.
Earlier, a Channel 2 report aired pre-recorded parts of an interview with Regev, where she says she knew even before entering her role as minister that she would be working for “a bunch of thankless people.”
Oded Kotler is an actor and director who characterized right-wing voters as “cud-munching animals” on Sunday night.
Yair Garbuz, painter and publicist, scorned what he called “mezuzah kissers” during a speech to left-wing voters before the election.