Morning Read 5/15: Trump will be first sitting US president to visit Kotel

Although several U.S. presidents have visited the Western Wall before or after their presidency, Trump will be the first to visit while in office [Florian Prischl]

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Trump set to become first sitting US president to visit Western Wall

Donald Trump is slated to become the first incumbent US president to visit the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all have visited the Jewish holy site, but either before or after their tenures as president.

“I don’t recall ever hearing of a sitting US president visiting the Western Wall,” said Shlomo Slonim, a professor emeritus of American history and the former chairman of Hebrew University’s Department of American Studies. Trump’s anticipated, but as of this writing unconfirmed, visit to the site would be “an innovation,” he added.

The White House has yet to publish the itinerary for Trump’s May 22-23 visit to Israel — the 11th presidential trip to the country since Richard Nixon came in 1974 — but according to sources involved in planning the trip, he is set to visit the Western Wall. If he indeed goes to the site, it would likely be interpreted by some as akin to an American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem. (Despite some reports to the contrary, Trump has never visited Israel before.) [ToI]

Tillerson: Trump weighing whether embassy move will help or hurt peace

WASHINGTON (AP) — US President Donald Trump is assessing whether moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would help or hurt prospects for clinching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, revealing Trump’s criteria for a decision that could reverberate throughout the volatile Middle East.

Since taking office, Trump has backed away from his campaign pledge to move the embassy in a gesture to Israel, instead saying he’s still studying the issue. But Tillerson linked Trump’s deliberations directly to his aspirations for brokering Mideast peace.

“The president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process,” Tillerson said in an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He said Trump’s decision would be informed by feedback from all sides, “most certainly” including “whether Israel views it as helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction.”

Trump’s decision is being closely watched as the president prepares to depart Friday on his first foreign trip. After stopping in Saudi Arabia, Trump will visit both Israel and the Palestinian territories, in a nod to his nascent bid to strike the Israeli-Palestinian deal that has eluded his predecessors.

Jerusalem’s status is one of the most emotionally charged issues in the conflict, with both sides laying claims. Israel captured East Jerusalem — claimed by Palestinians for the capital of a future independent state — from Jordan in 1967 and annexed it, a move not internationally recognized. [ToI]

France’s Macron takes power

Emmanuel Macron took power as president of France on Sunday, vowing to restore the country’s status in Europe and the world and heal divisions in society — a nod to the bitter campaign the pro-EU centrist fought to defeat a far-right leader.

The 39-year-old former investment banker, unknown to the wider public three years ago and whose May 7 election marked a meteoric rise to power, was inaugurated leader of the world’s fifth-largest economy in a solemn Elysee Palace ceremony.

In his first words after taking office, he pledged to restore France’s standing on the world stage, strengthen national self-confidence and heal divisions that the bitterly-fought campaign had opened up.

Macron beat the National Front’s Marine Le Pen in a May 7 run-off vote but the long campaign exposed deep divisions over France’s role in Europe, immigration, and policies to revive a sluggish economy bedeviled by high unemployment. [REUTERS]

North Korea’s latest missile launch suggest progress towards ICBM

North Korea’s apparently successful launch of a mid-to-long range missile indicated a significant advance in its drive for an intercontinental ballistic missile, monitors said on Monday, a worrying sign for the Korean peninsula and the United States.

The isolated North boasted on Monday that the launch the previous day, supervised by leader Kim Jong Un, was aimed at verifying the capability to carry a “large scale heavy nuclear warhead”.

However, the U.S. military’s Pacific Command said on Sunday the type of missile that was fired was “not consistent” with an ICBM and South Korea’s military played down the North’s claim of technical progress on atmospheric re-entry.

The missile landed in the sea near Russia on Sunday in a launch that Washington called a message to South Korea, days after its new president took office pledging to engage Pyongyang in dialogue.

Moon responded on Monday by sending special envoys to the United States, China, Germany, Japan and Russia to explain his new government’s plans and policy towards the defiant North. [REUTERS]


HONG KONG (AP) — Experts are trying to figure out who’s behind a global “ransomware” software cyberattack that shut down hundreds of thousands of computers around the world by exploiting a software vulnerability.

Cybersecurity experts say the worm affects computers using Microsoft operating systems and takes advantage of a vulnerability in the software to spread the infection. “WannaCry” is particularly malicious because it takes just one person to click on an infected link or email attachment to cause the virus to spread to other machines on the same network.

Infected computers are frozen and display a big message in red informing users, “Oops, your files have been encrypted!” and demanding about $300 in online bitcoin payment. Victims have only hours to pay the ransom, which rises to $600 before the files are destroyed.

Money has been trickling in, according to a Twitter account monitoring bitcoin wallets linked to the attacks, with victims paying nearly $39,000 by Monday afternoon in Asia

The worm has claimed at least 200,000 victims since Friday, according to one count by Europol, Europe’s policing agency. Cases have been reported in 150 countries, and include Chinese gas stations, Japanese broadcasters, Indonesian and British hospitals, and German railways.

Wellsmore said Asia was likely spared the brunt of the attack because of the timing. “Just as those attacks were picking up speed, we were heading into Friday evening and turning off a lot of computer systems,” he said.

Computer users should patch their machines with updates from Microsoft, especially those using older versions of operating systems such as Windows XP. Microsoft did put out a patch two months ago for more recent systems, but not all users may have downloaded it. After “WannaCry,” it released an emergency patch for older systems too.

The “WannaCry” attack grabbed headlines around the world because of its scale, but it’s just one of many types of ransomware that cybersecurity experts see every day. That’s because it’s a very easy way to make money. “It’s a business model that works and you don’t need a lot of investment to actually get a decent return,” said Wellsmore.

“You can buy ransomware kits on the dark web, you can buy all the tool sets you need to undertake your own ransomware campaign quiet easily,” he said, referring to an area of the internet often used for illegal activity. Would-be extortionists can launch a global campaign with little effort, yet authorities can do little because it’s very difficult to investigate, Wellsmore said.

Wellsmore and other cybersecurity experts say the identity of the perpetrators is still unknown. The hackers were using tools stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency and released on the internet. The software vulnerability was purportedly first identified by the NSA for its own intelligence-gathering work.

“We don’t expect this to be a sophisticated group,” said Wellsmore. “We expect this is a small operation that is undertaking this. They just happen to hit the motherlode. Unfortunately for the rest of us, this thing went quite global quite quickly.” [AP]


U.S. lawmakers ask Trump to turn over any Comey tapes

U.S. lawmakers on Sunday called on President Donald Trump to turn over any tapes of conversations with fired FBI chief James Comey, potentially setting up a showdown with the White House as Democrats considered a boycott of the vote on Comey’s replacement.

In a highly unusual move, Trump last week appeared to suggest on Twitter that he might have tapes of conversations with Comey and warned the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation against talking to the media. Trump and a White House spokesman declined to confirm or deny whether such tapes exist.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the White House must “clear the air” about whether there are any taped conversations.

“You can’t be cute about tapes. If there are any tapes of this conversation, they need to be turned over,” Graham told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

Trump sparked a political firestorm when he abruptly fired Comey last week. The FBI has been investigating alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election and possible ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Democrats have accused Trump of attempting to thwart the FBI’s probe and have called for some type of independent inquiry into the matter.

Trump has said he removed Comey because he was not doing a good job and that Comey had lost the support of FBI employees.

Trump tweeted on Friday that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” [REUTERS]

Another appeals court to weigh Trump’s revised travel ban

SEATTLE (AP) — For the second time in a week, government lawyers will try to persuade a federal appeals court to reinstate President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban – and once again, they can expect plenty of questions Monday about whether the ban was designed to discriminate against Muslims.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled arguments in Seattle over Hawaii’s lawsuit challenging the travel ban, which would suspend the nation’s refugee program and temporarily bar new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Last week, judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments over whether to affirm a Maryland judge’s decision putting the ban on ice. They peppered Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall with questions about whether they could consider Trump’s campaign statements calling for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., with one judge asking if there was anything other than “willful blindness” that would prevent them from doing so.

Monday’s arguments mark the second time Trump’s efforts to restrict immigration from certain Muslim-majority nations have reached the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit. [AP]

Mayor of Virginia city targeted by anti-Semitic tweets after criticizing marchers

The mayor of the Virginia college town of Charlottesville was the target of anti-Semitic tweets on Sunday after speaking out against white nationalists who converged on a local park carrying blazing torches the night before.

Mayor Mike Signer said two protests led on Saturday by Richard Spencer, a leader of the “alt-right” movement, came on the same day the city held its annual Festival of Cultures event, which celebrates diversity in the home of the University of Virginia.

“You’re seeing anti-Semitism in these crazy tweets I’m getting and you’re seeing a display of torches at night, which is reminiscent of the KKK,” Signer, who is Jewish, said in a phone interview. “They’re sort of a last gasp of the bigotry that this country has systematically overcome.”

Signer issued a statement on Saturday criticizing the torch-carrying marchers as either “profoundly ignorant” or aiming to instill fear.

“I smell Jew,” posted an anonymous Twitter user with the handle “Great Patriot Trump.” “If so, you are going back to Israel. But you will not stay in power here. Not for long.”

The protesters converged on Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee Park, where a statue of the Confederate general that the city council voted to remove is located. The city also voted to remove a statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, located in another park. Both changes have been put on hold amid ongoing litigation.

The Charlottesville protests were the latest of several in the U.S. South in recent months over the removal of statues celebrating leaders of the Confederacy, the slave-holding group of states that broke with the North in the early 1860s, prompting the 1861-1865 Civil War.

Spencer, an avowed white nationalist, is credited by some with coining the term “alt-right” to describe online and social media communities on the far right that include white supremacists. [REUTERS]


Dozens of bills aim to benefit public employees at taxpayers’ expense

The remaining six weeks of the state Legislature’s 2017 session is turning into a potential pension and benefit porkapalooza for public-employee unions — and even judges.

More than 90 pension- and benefit-sweetener bills have been introduced that could cost state and local governments at least $200 million.

But the cost to taxpayers would likely be higher because two-thirds of the measures don’t include fiscal impact statements.

A bill sponsored by Senate Majority leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) and state Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) would expand eligibility for increased, three-quarter disability benefits to more NYPD cops, at a cost of about $13.5 million.

Other measures extend disability pensions for job-related injuries to state forest rangers, college cops and state park police (at a cost of $3 million) and to Nassau County sheriffs and correction officers (cost: $1.35 million).

And all 1,271 state judges would be able to use their final year’s salary for pension purposes, forcing the state to pay a retroactive $47 million. [NYP]

Synagogue goes up in flames

A vacant synagogue on the Lower East Side mysteriously went up in flames on Sunday night — sending massive plumes of thick, black smoke billowing across downtown Manhattan.

The blaze broke out at the historic Beth Hamedrash Hagadol synagogue sometime before 7 p.m., according to officials.

The cause of the 3-alarm fire is under investigation, the officials said.

A hardship application, submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2012, outlines how the site was purchased by Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in 1885 for $45,000, which is about $1.2 million today.

According to Curbed NY, the congregation requested to tear the decrepit building down, as renovations would wind up costing them a whopping $3 million.

They reportedly wanted to replace the structure with condominiums, and a new synagogue on the ground floor — but Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum chose to ditch the plans in 2014.

LES residents told The Post that another fire broke out at the synagogue some time last week, though officials could not confirm. [NYP]

Greenfield to host Mayor de Blasio in Boro Park Town Hall on Tuesday, May 16th

Councilman David G. Greenfield will host Mayor Bill de Blasio at a special town hall on Tuesday, May 16th at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School at 5800 20th Avenue.

The event will allow Mayor de Blasio to learn more about pressing local concerns for residents of Boro Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst.

“I am pleased that the Mayor is coming directly to Boro Park to hear our concerns,” Greenfield said. “As they say, the buck stops with him. So if you have an issue that you feel passionately about, please join us this Tuesday night and have your voice heard directly by the Mayor.”

The town hall is co-sponsored by Community Board 12 and 14, the 66th and 70th Precinct Community Council, the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, COJO of Flatbush, the Chinese American Social Service Center and Sephardic Bikur Holim, along with Boro President Eric Adams and Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

“This is the first time that I can remember that a mayor was willing to come directly to Boro Park and have a conversation with anyone in the community,” Greenfield said. “This is a unique opportunity. I invite everyone in my Midwood, Boro Park and Bensonhurst district to join us.”

Although seating is free and open to anyone, there are a limited amount of seats so anyone wanting to attend must RSVP. To do so, email : or call (212) 748-0281.

Top state Senate Republican vows to make it hard for de Blasio to keep control over city schools

The state Senate majority leader plans to put Mayor de Blasio through the wringer before he’ll agree to sign off on another year of mayoral control for city schools.

“That’s something we’ve kind of hammered the city on, and I’m not going to walk away from that,” Republican leader John Flanagan said Sunday on the John Catsimatidis AM 970 radio show.

Mayoral control is set to expire in June, after state pols passed on a proposal to avoid a protracted fight by including a temporary extension in the state budget. For the past three years, state pols have agreed to only one-year extensions for de Blasio, instead of the multi-year approvals granted to his predecessor Mike Bloomberg.

Flanagan said he’ll press for more information about how state money for city schools is being used, as well as an expansion of charter schools.

“Our contention is to make sure we know where the money’s being spent — is it being spent wisely, invested, are we helping the kids that are most in need?” he said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say, what’s the bang for the buck? What are you doing with the homeless kids, what are you doing with children who are English as a second language, what are you doing with kids who are on free and reduced lunch? Where’s the money going, and what’s the outcome?” [DN]


Trump Administration Races to Fill FBI Job Amid Democrats’ Resistance

The Trump administration is pressing to quickly pick the next FBI director, but congressional Democrats are threatening to withhold support for any nominee unless an independent investigator is appointed to look into possible ties between Russia and associates of the president.

Justice Department officials over the weekend held what they described as substantive discussions with at least eight candidates to lead the bureau. The broad list of contenders includes a top Republican senator, two senior officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a federal judge.

But President Donald Trump’s firing last week of FBI Director James Comey just as the bureau is conducting its Russia probe has spurred Democratic resistance. Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York on Sunday said he supported the idea of refusing to vote on a new FBI director nominee until a special prosecutor is named. “I think there are a lot of Democrats who feel that way,” he said on CNN.

Top administration officials on Sunday defended the president’s decision to fire Mr. Comey.
“The president is the CEO of the country,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on ABC. “He can hire and fire whoever he wants.”

Mr. Trump signaled over the weekend that he could nominate a new director as soon as this week. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose recommendation was originally cited by the White House as the reason Mr. Comey was fired, prepared to brief the Senate this week on the Russia probe. Lawmakers are widely expected to question him about Mr. Comey’s departure. [WSJ]

Deputy attorney general sees no need for Russia probe special prosecutor

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein does not see a need at this time for a special prosecutor to investigate allegations Russia meddled in the U.S. election and possible collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign, CNN reported on Friday, citing unnamed sources. [REUTERS]

Jared and Ivanka stay out of the spotlight amid Comey fallout

Washington (CNN) The White House is reeling from President Donald Trump’s Tuesday firing of FBI Director James Comey and subsequent fallout. Vice President Mike Pence, press secretary Sean Spicer and deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders scrambled to defend the decision.

But where are Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump? On more than one occasion, the power couple has been seemingly absent when the going gets tough.

In March, while the administration’s first crack at repealing Obamacare struggled to gain traction, the pair was on the slopes in Aspen, Colorado, for a family tradition ski trip.

In April, when leaks of infighting within the administration were on top of the news cycle, they were celebrating Passover at the Four Seasons Whistler in Canada, according to reports.

And this week was no exception. Though the President’s daughter and son-in-law remained in Washington and working at the White House, they stayed under the radar and away from the cameras following news of Comey’s departure.

She posts prolifically on social media — sometimes multiple times a day. But following Monday snaps from a visit to a popular Hirshhorn Museum exhibit and a meeting with biomedical community leaders, she’s been relatively quiet compared to her usual posting pattern — sharing only a photo from Tueday’s event, a link to an article on paid family leave, a #TBT from her trip to Berlin and an #FBF from a September visit to Virginia Beach. [CNN]

Trump considering staff shake-up

President Trump is reportedly weighing a shake-up in his administration.

The president is considering a “huge reboot” that could include chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Stephen Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer, Axios reported early Sunday, citing White House sources.

The move comes at the urging of longtime friends and outside advisers, according to the news outlet.

“He’s frustrated, and angry at everyone,” an unidentified confidant told Axios. “The advice he’s getting is to go big — that he has nothing to lose,” the confidant added. “The question now is how big and how bold. I’m not sure he knows the answer to that yet.”

Sources also said Trump feels he is not being well-served by some members of his Cabinet.

Six West Wing officials also told The New York Times, meanwhile, the president is considering the most far-reaching shake-up of his first term after being dissatisfied with several top aides, especially Spicer.

The reports comes after the president last week fired FBI Director James Comey, a move that sparked controversy and outrage. [THEHILL]

White House calls emergency meetings as global cyberattack spreads

The Trump administration hastily called emergency meetings Friday and Saturday to contain fallout from the ongoing global ransomware campaign that has now hit victims in at least 150 countries, including the U.S.

On Friday, when the attacks started spreading throughout Europe and Asia, White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert chaired a meeting of the federal government’s so-called Cyber Response Group, which helps agencies coordinate their reactions to digital assaults, a source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

The group met to assess the rapidly expanding ransomware attack, which locks up a computer network’s files until a ransom is paid. The attacks forced several hospitals in England to stop admitting new patients with serious medical conditions and drove other companies to shut down their networks, leaving valuable data unavailable.

In total, European authorities said the ransomware assault has crippled more than 200,000 victims in those 150 countries. The malware that helps spread the attack is repurposed from apparent National Security Agency hacking tools that were leaked online earlier this year.

Friday’s emergency White House meeting included the National Security Council’s entire cyber directorate, led by cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce. [POLITICO]


Anti-Zionist Hasidic Father of 16 Pays Hefty Price for Rejecting Israel

At the beginning of the week in which Israel celebrated its independence, Yoelish Kraus was set, for the first time in his life, to lose the extreme freedom he’s pursued all his life. He was about to start serving a five-month prison term. Kraus, who in the past was dubbed by the media the “operations officer of the Eda Haredit” ultra-Orthodox communal organization in Jerusalem – a nonexistent position from which he disassociated himself – was convicted of failing to report the revenues from a slaughterhouse he ran in Jerusalem. In addition to being ordered to pay 250,000 shekels (about $70,000) in arrears, he was sentenced to a short prison term. He was also convicted of not having an Israeli ID card.

A few days before his scheduled incarceration date, Kraus looked a bit worried, but also somewhat bemused at the looming change of atmosphere. There’s never a dull moment in his small apartment – two connecting rooms and a mini-kitchen – in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood. Doors open and shut as the 16 children of Kraus and his wife, Rachel, ranging in age from 3 to 22, come and go, along with visitors from here and there: neighbors, local children, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law and two or three toddler grandchildren – Kraus doesn’t exactly remember whose. In comparison to the constant melee of home, prison will be a vacation, Kraus says, and will give him time to write his autobiography. Since 2011, when the slaughterhouse ceased operations, Kraus has worked long daily shifts in a catering firm, as a vegetable peeler and slicer, in order to provide for the large family that he and Rachel are raising. He’s 44, she’s 43.

According to Kraus, the local abattoir had existed for a century, but lacked the necessary permits. “I tried to get the permits, and in the meantime slaughtering went on once or twice a week for the community,” he explains. Under the rules of kashrut as set forth in the Shulhan Arukh, the 16th-century code of Jewish law, a fowl slated for slaughter must be capable of walking about two meters, as proof that it is healthy and fit for human consumption. Sticklers about Jewish law are concerned that the big plants, where hundreds of birds are slaughtered hourly, have no time to ensure that the birds meet this athletic criterion. Thus, the community needs its own slaughterhouse. By the way, Kraus himself is a vegetarian.

“One day the tax authorities, the police and municipal inspectors showed up, demolished the slaughterhouse and did investigations,” Kraus relates. “After a five-year trial I [was convicted of a] failure to report. It doesn’t matter whether you have a profit or a loss – not reporting is an offense.” He was ordered to pay 100,000 shekels (about $28,000) in back taxes and 80,000 shekels to the VAT authorities, and was slapped with a 50,000-shekel fine for not reporting income. He was also sentenced to five months in prison.

Why didn’t you file tax reports?
“The slaughterhouse didn’t belong to me, it was run by a company. After the municipality told them to stop, I went on operating the place: I thought I would sort out the permit, and then it would revert to the previous owner. Getting a permit is very tough bureaucratically. There was no intent to evade taxes. The rent and the salary to the slaughterer cost me more than what people paid [for the service], and many people didn’t pay at all, because they don’t have money. Our ideology is not to not pay the state, it’s not to take from the state. I don’t want favors from them.”

The court agreed to defer the start of Kraus’ prison term to allow him to appear before a committee that decides who is eligible to be incarcerated in the prison’s Orthodox ward. He started his term on May 10. He will pay the money he owes in installments, which he hopes he will be able to meet. “I don’t think that anyone in the country has gotten a sentence like mine – both the fine and prison. After all, they didn’t say I evaded taxes, only that I didn’t report. There’s a singer who evaded tax of 2.5 million shekels and was sentenced to four months of community service. [He’s referring to Eyal Golan.] The judge wrote that it’s because he has three children – and I, who have 16 children, get a punishment.”

By “our ideology,” Kraus is referring to the Haredi sects that do not recognize Israel’s existence and oppose the state and Zionism. Thus, Kraus and his wife do not have ID cards – in fact, he doesn’t even have an ID number, due to a bureaucratic snafu shortly after his birth. After being charged with not being in possession of an ID card, Kraus says, he tried to obtain one, but unsuccessfully, as the Interior Ministry has no documentation attesting to his identity. Kraus says he filed an administrative petition to the District Court to obtain an ID card, “but for 10 months they’ve rejected the request. On the one hand I’m charged with not having an ID card, and on the other hand they don’t give me one.”

Unmarried mother
Kraus is a member of the Jerusalem-based, Hasidic and anti-Zionist Toldos Aharon sect. He and his wife decline to accept National Insurance Institute monthly child allowances (which could be of significant assistance, considering that they have 13 children of eligible age) and do not belong to a health maintenance organization. (Nevertheless, income tax, NII and health insurance payments are mandatorily deducted from Kraus’ salary in the catering service.)

What do you do when a child is sick?
Kraus: “Statistics show that people who don’t use HMOs are sick a lot less. If we have an occasional need, we go to a private doctor. All the children were born in Bikur Holim Hospital [in Jerusalem], and we paid privately each time. Each birth cost between 9,000 and 12,000 shekels.”

If you pay anyway, why not use what the state offers?
“If I take money, I’ll be theirs. If I’m theirs, tomorrow they’ll tell me to take [the Education Ministry’s] core subjects, and I’ll have to, because I’m taking money from them. There’s no such thing as them giving to you and not asking for something in return.”

Yoelish and Rachel (nee Epstein) are married according to halakha but are not registered in the Chief Rabbinate. As a result, all 16 of their children are registered as having an unmarried mother. The children have ID numbers (at least, 13 of them do, because the bureaucracy somehow overlooked three of them), but they are not registered under their names in the Interior Ministry.

When the boys receive a first army call-up notice – which they ignore – they are noted as “son of Bat Miriam Epstein.” (Miriam Epstein is Rachel’s mother.)

The children, too, enjoy the action, occasionally listening in on conversations and laughing at their father’s jokes. They go rocketing from the house when they hear a rumor that a police van has dared to enter the neighborhood, because of a neighbors’ quarrel. The adolescents want to throw stones, the little ones want to shout “Nazis!” at the officers. The girls return amused: one of the officers was a policewoman, who was branded a “pritzeh”.

Rachel, like her husband, is from Mea She’arim, a large Haredi quarter in central Jerusalem. Her family belongs to Neturei Karta, another anti-Zionist sect. She used to run a day nursery, but at the moment doesn’t work outside the home, as she is caring for her aged parents, who live nearby.

She’s the youngest of four children. Her father, who grew up in Argentina, ran a yeshiva in Jerusalem that Yoelish attended, after he crossed the lines from the Hasidic world to an institution associated with Neturei Karta, whose origins lie in non-Hasidic Lithuanian Jewry. Hence the match between Yoelish and Rachel.

Is it usual for Hasidim to marry Lithuanian Jews?
Rachel: “It happens, though not very often, because usually Hasidim take genuine Hasidim, even though Toldos Aharon and Neturei Karta have the same approach. Yoelish and I each took a little from the other. We are educating the children in institutions that don’t belong to Toldos Aharon, but whose customs are Hasidic. For example, Hanukkah candles are lit after sunset, like Hasidim – with Lithuanians it’s before sunset. But we don’t belong to a specific Hasidic dynasty such as Toldos Aharon, because Yoelish felt that we want to be more on a middle path.”

The neighborhood here isn’t considered friendly to secular women, or in general. How is it that your house is open to everyone?

Rachel: “We are Jews, we are hospitable to everyone. There are homes that are more closed, but if you knock at the door they’ll let you in, provided you’re dressed modestly. We don’t accept the state, we are against the idea of Zionism. But each person is distinctive. Every Jew is a soul created by the Lord. Every Jewish soul is a diamond. When Jew meets with Jew there is an inner closeness, a root or a bond. Only the burden of the exile caused the separation. Unity builds the Jewish people.”

In contrast to Kraus, who was trying to be positive about his looming “vacation,” his wife and children were worried. They hung a note on the refrigerator reminding him not to forget to pray for the reversal of the judgment. “It struck us like a bolt from the blue,” Rachel says. “It’s a trauma for the children. They pray all day,

Though 16 children (9 boys and 7 girls, none of them twins) is not a neighborhood high – a nearby family has 21 children – it’s not something you see every day. “If someone imagines beforehand getting into such a project, it doesn’t look realistic,” Rachel says, referring to childbearing. “When I had my fifth child, I met a woman with 15 children. I asked her how you do it, it didn’t seem reasonable. She told me, ‘Don’t think. When you get to birth number 15, you won’t have to do anything anymore, everyone will be around you, you’ll be like a queen.’ I didn’t believe it. And now I look, and 16 children doesn’t seem like so many. We fulfill our task. It’s with the help of God. It’s not our powers. I don’t think that a mother who has fewer children has more strength or more time.” [HAARETZ]


Microsoft partly blames US government for global cyberattack

WASHINGTON — Microsoft warned governments Sunday against storing computer vulnerabilities like the leaked one at the heart of the cyberattack that has crippled computers in more than 150 countries, partly laying blame with the US government for the weekend assault.

“The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake up call,” Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, wrote in a blog post about what is being called the largest ransomware attack ever.

Smith criticized US intelligence agencies, including the CIA and National Security Agency, for “stockpiling” software code that can be used by hackers. Cybersecurity experts say the unknown hackers who launched this weekend’s “ransomware” attacks used a vulnerability that was exposed in NSA documents leaked online.

“An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen, he wrote, adding that governments should “report vulnerabilities” that they discover to software companies, “rather than stockpile, sell, or exploit them.”[ToI]

Israel’s high-tech sector is thriving, and now China wants in on the action

Go to Israel and chances are you’ll install some new apps on your phone, just to keep up. A few years ago that might have been the navigation and transportation ones Waze and Moovit. More recently it may well have been photo editors Facetune and Enlight. All Israeli developed, all global successes and just a tip, albeit a visible one, of the country’s high-tech iceberg.

Inevitably such success is shot through with hyperbole but it rests on very solid and tangible numbers. $15.3 billion is one of them, representing the biggest high-tech business deal in Israel’s history and the sum that Intel paid in March for autonomous driving firm Mobileye.

And instead of packing up the company and moving it to the U.S., Intel is establishing it as its global autonomous driving hub and R&D (research and development) center. There are over 300 international firms with a high-tech research center in the country, including giants such as Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Cisco, HP and older Intel centers, to name but a few.

“Over the last couple of weeks, since the Intel-Mobileye transaction, all hell has broken loose,” says Jon Medved, CEO of OurCrowd, an Israel-based crowdsourcing platform for accredited investors.

“The country is being overrun in a positive way by investors, corporations, strategic partners, all sorts, who simply want to get a piece of this.”

While those seeking investors in the high-tech industry can be expected to sound upbeat, the message is being repeated by others: The Mobileye deal is big and can be a game changer in terms of making more international companies and investors aware of the potential of Israeli businesses, not just start-ups, where much of the action had often been in the past.

In terms of venture capital flowing into the industry, Israel had a bumper year in 2016, raising $4.8 billion in funds, up 11 percent from 2015, according to an IVC-ZAG report. But the same firms note a slowdown in the first quarter of 2017 to $1.03 billion. That’s 4 percent down, or what IVC’s Simana calls, “a minor drop”. [CNBC]

Rabsky pays $68M for site next to proposed DoBro tower

Rabsky Group is expanding its plans for a Downtown Brooklyn skyscraper as big as 770,000 square feet with the recent $68 million purchase of a neighboring property at 633 Fulton Street, sources told The Real Deal.

The Brooklyn development firm, led by Simon Dushinsky and Isaac Rabinowitz, closed Wednesday night on the three-story retail building, which has the addresses of 633-645 Fulton Street and 44-60 Rockwell Place. The purchase allows Rabsky to build a larger ground-up tower, which is expected to contain 150,000 square feet of retail and significant frontage along Fulton Street.

The seller of the 36,000-square-foot property, home to discount store Dollar Deals, is landlord Sam Jemal, sources said. The building is slated for demolition later this year, paving the way for construction to begin.

Joel Gluck’s Spencer Equity is also a partner with Rabsky on the deal. Spencer is investing $28 million, and the remaining $40 million will be provided by two bank loans, according to Tel Aviv Stock Exchange documents. Spencer owns 50 percent of the site, Rabsky 25 percent, and a third partner owns the remaining 25 percent. The purchasing entity will lease the property back to another entity controlled by Spencer Equity for 35 years for price or $2.72 million over two years, the documents show.

Prior to this acquisition, Rabsky was planning a 36-story, roughly 618,000-square-foot office tower on the site at 625 Fulton Street. But the firm is now considering either residential or office as the tower’s primary use, said Tucker Reed, whose new real estate consultancy Totem is a partner on the project. The combined parcels offer 770,000 square feet as-of-right.

“The zoning on the site allows for a lot of flexibility,” Reed said. “This additional piece was very important.” [TRD]

05/15/2017 10:33 AM by David Kinzer
Tags: Morning Read

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