Designer draws from Israel’s many tribes


Designer Hed Mayner is not afraid to play with the totems of Israeli life, from a trench coat made from a military tent to a sleeveless beach top cut from a Jewish prayer shawl.

The 30-year-old from a hippyish village in Galilee joyously mixed djellabas, jogging pants, jeans and PVC jackets in his debut Paris men’s fashion show this weekend.

He started designing at 16 inspired by the collection of kimonos a neighbor in his forest community near the Lebanese border had brought home from her time in Japan.

“When you’re isolated from urban life, you have this fantasy of it that never really fits with reality and you can kind of develop this universe,” he told AFP of his eclectic influences.

His village of 40 families near Amuka in the north of the country is a pilgrimage site for Orthodox and Hasidic Jews who flock to the tomb of a famous rabbi to pray for a good marriage.

This helped kindle his fascination with Orthodox Jewish clothing, although he was never religious himself.

“They wear tailored pieces but not in a sharp suited way,” said Mayner, whose parents are artists.

‘Multicultural to the extreme’

“You have the big shoulders, the jacket and the sleeves that are too long… I really like this idea of disproportion but it’s still tailored and very structured.

“They have these shops which sells one jacket in a million sizes.”

Orthodox Jews like their clothes to “really wrap the body” and handed them down from “from one kid to the another, he added.

Mayner said he drew much of his inspiration from both the military and religious uniforms of the Jewish state’s diverse though not always harmonious communities.

“Israelis don’t see fashion in the same way Europeans see it. It is not something that is very important in everyday life. In Israel people are in uniforms.”

Nowhere more so than in the contested holy city of Jerusalem, he said.

“I love Jerusalem but it’s a very difficult place to live because it’s super intense. You have craziness there all the time, you know the ‘Jerusalem syndrome’, you really feel it.

“Society there is very uniformed, everybody is in uniform and it’s kind of multicultural to the extreme.

“Israel is very split. You have the most secular people and very religious people.”

Mayner preferred to set up his studio in the more liberal beach-side city of Tel Aviv with its creative and international outlook.

As well as French style influences, “Tel Aviv is also linked to Berlin culture,” he said. “The city is half very old, half very new buildings and everything is under construction.

“There is so much around and the idea of creating something is very strong,” not only in fashion but “from start-up people to industrial designers.”

His clothes, however, are not are yet sold in his homeland, instead going to shops in Europe and the United States.

And being a fan of the Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, he is chuffed about how well they sell in Japan.

“I think the Japanese understand my clothes better than I do myself,” he said. afp

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Londoners hold vigil for mosque attack victims


Londoners bearing flowers and messages of solidarity gathered Monday at the spot where a man plowed a van into Muslims leaving prayers at a mosque, the fourth terror strike in Britain in four months.

Eleven people were injured in the attack, which took place early Monday near Finsbury Park mosque, north London, raising fears of retaliation against Muslims after recent assaults by Islamic extremists.

One elderly man, who had collapsed just before the incident, was pronounced dead at the scene, but it is not yet known whether his death was directly linked to the van assault.

Among the roughly 100 people at the vigil, some carried signs reading “United Against All Terror.”

“One of the things that all these terrorists share is a perverse ideology that wants to fuel division and divide our communities. We’re not going to let them,” said Mayor Sadiq Khan, speaking after prayers at the Muslim Welfare House on Monday evening.

Flowers were left at the scene where hours earlier the 47-year-old van driver was pinned down by locals and shielded from violence by an imam, before being detained by police.

The driver was later arrested on suspicion of “the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism including murder and attempted murder”, the police said.

The suspect was identified by British media as Darren Osborne, a father of four who lived in the Welsh capital Cardiff.

As police searched a property, five residents speaking to journalists from the Press Association news agency identified images of the arrested man as their neighbour, Osborne.

Security Minister Ben Wallace told BBC radio that the suspect was “not known to us.”

London police chief Cressida Dick said the incident was “quite clearly an attack on Muslims” and promised a stepped-up police presence near mosques as the holy month of Ramadan draws to a close.

Witness Abdiqadir Warra told AFP the van “drove at people” and that some of the victims were carried for several meters along the road.

“He was shouting: ‘I want to kill all Muslims,’” another witness, Khalid Amin, told BBC television.

The Finsbury Park Mosque said the van “deliberately mowed down Muslim men and women leaving late evening prayers” at the mosque and the nearby Muslim Welfare House shortly after midnight.

Eleven people were hurt, all Muslims, with nine requiring hospital treatment. Two were in a very serious condition, police said.

One Algerian man was among those injured, the north African country said.

Locals pinned down the driver and the imam of the Muslim Welfare House stepped in to stop him receiving a mob beating.

France and Germany quickly condemned the attack and Egypt’s Al-Azhar institution, the leading authority in Sunni Islam, condemned it as “sinful.”

“Al-Azhar affirms its total rejection of this terrorist, racist, sinful act, calling on Western countries to take all precautionary measures to limit the phenomenon of Islamophobia,” it said in a statement.

US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka expressed solidarity with the worshippers in a tweet but her father has so far not commented.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who was heavily criticized for failing to meet survivors of a devastating fire in a London tower block last week, visited Finsbury Park Mosque where she met local faith leaders.

May condemned the assault as “sickening,” saying Britain’s determination to fight “terrorism, extremism and hatred… must be the same, whoever is responsible.”

The use of a vehicle to mow down pedestrians drew parallels with this month’s London Bridge attack.

In that incident, three men slammed a van into pedestrians before embarking on a stabbing spree — an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

In March London was hit with another car and knife rampage, that one near parliament. It was also claimed by IS.

This time the attacker deliberately targeted Muslims, according to the police.

“Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia and this is the most violent manifestation to date,” said Harun Khan, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body.

After the London Bridge attack, the mayor’s office reported a 40 percent increase in racist incidents in the capital and a five-fold increase in anti-Muslim incidents.

Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque, described the attack as “cowardly.”

“Our community is in shock,” he said, urging people attending prayers to remain vigilant.

It was the third major incident in the capital this month, after the London Bridge attack and last week’s devastating fire in the Grenfell Tower block, in which 79 people are thought to have died.

“This is an extraordinary city of extraordinary people,” May said outside Downing Street after chairing an emergency government meeting.

“Diverse, welcoming, vibrant, compassionate, confident and determined never to give in to hate.”

Last month, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a pop concert in Britain’s third city of Manchester, killing 22 people, many of them children.

The Finsbury Park Mosque was once a notorious hub for radical Islamists but has changed markedly in recent years under new management.

Its former imam, Abu Hamza, was jailed for life in New York on terrorism charges in 2015.

Despite the change in leadership and the focus on bolstering inter-faith relations, the mosque reported it had received a string of threatening emails and letters in the wake of the Paris attacks. afp

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Einstein letters on quantum theory and God to be auctioned


Letters from Albert Einstein giving colleagues his thoughts on physics, God and Israel in the 1950s go under the hammer at a Jerusalem auction house on June 20.

The website of Winners auction house describes five signed letters written in English between 1951 and 1954.

The site gave current estimates of their combined value as between $31,000 and $46,000.

In a 1951 letter to eminent physicist David Bohm, Einstein discusses Bohm’s linkage between quantum theory and “relativistic field theory”.

“I must confess that I am not able to guess how such unification could be achieved,” Einstein writes.

The typed letter includes an equation added in neat handwriting and the writer’s signature.

Bohm, born in the United States to Jewish immigrant parents, had worked with Einstein at Princeton University before fleeing to Brazil after losing his post in Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist witch-hunts.

In a 1954 letter to Bohm, who was living in Sao Paulo, Einstein empathises with his friend’s struggles in his complex theoretical work.

“If God has created the world his primary worry was certainly not to make its understanding easy for us. I feel it strongly since fifty years,” he writes.

Winners said the letters came from the estate of Bohm’s late widow.

Another 1954 letter refers to the possibility of Bohm moving to Israel, which had been founded in 1948.

Einstein, who had turned down an offer to be the fledgling country’s president, believed the time was not ripe for such a move.

“Israel is intellectually alive and interesting but has very narrow possibilities and to go there with the intention to leave on the first occasion would be regretable,” he wrote.

Bohm did, in fact, take up a visiting professorship at Israel’s renowned Technion technological institute in 1955.

“Two years later, he moved to England where he worked in the Universities of London and Bristol,” Winners’ online catalogue said.

Einstein had earlier served as a non-resident governor of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, and when he died in 1955, he left it his archives — making it the world’s most extensive collection of his documents. afp

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MEPs discuss the state of civil rights in Moldova

Delegates from Moldova’s Șor Party have been visiting the European Parliament in Strasbourg to appeal to MEPs for help in getting the head of their party, Ilan Shor, released from almost one year of house arrest in his home country.
At a press conference on 14 June in Strasbourg, the delegation gave an insight into the poor state of democracy and civil rights in this former Soviet republic, as well as details on the circumstances surrounding the detention of their party leader. Mr Ilan Șor, a well-known business man in Moldova, and currently the Mayor of the city of Orhei, has been under house arrest now for almost 1 year.Several MEPs participated at the conference including Mr Lorenzo Fontana from Italy’s League of the North, Ms Elisabeta Gardini – a vice-chairman of both the European People’s Party group and the Forza Italia, Mr Alberto Chirio, Member of the European Parliament Committee for EU’s Association with the Republic of Moldova, and Mr Jean-Luc Schaffhauser.The keynote speakers were Ilan Șor’s lawyers and Marina Tauber, vice-chairman of the Șor party. The picture of the risks surrounding business and politics in a corrupt and impoverished country were highlighted and exemplified by the panel with the consequences now facing Mr Șor. In 2013, Ilan Șor, reportedly found himself under pressure from the then Prime Minister Vlad Filat to acquire a controlling stake in the government-owned “Banca de economii” which, by that time, after widespread and endemic embezzlement, was hiding a “hole” in the range of several hundred million euros. Feeling betrayed by government officials, Mr. Șor was outspoken in his testimony during the subsequent investigations. Ilan Shor testified that for years he paid what amounted to “protection” money to the former Prime Minister, while as a banker he was blackmailed into authorizing a $250 million loan that was clearly never meant to be repaid. Soon after that, the Banca de Economii, once the largest in Moldova, was declared bankrupt. Following this, for the first time in the entire 25-year history of Moldova, it became possible to identify and prove corruption, and former Prime Minister Filat was sentenced last year to 9 years in prison. Despite his transparent cooperation in the investigations and lack of evidence of any wrong doings by his own part, Mr Șor later became defendant in another criminal case and faced onslaught of criticism by the media. This did however not prevent him from winning the first round of mayoral elections in the major city of Orhei. Today Orhei, thanks to Mr. Șor and his team, has achieved significant improvements in cleanliness, infrastructure and other public services such as utilities, pensions and social stores with affordable goods for pensioners and low-income households. In the two years since Ilan Șor’s arrival to Orhei, his approval ratings have increased significantly, despite his current house arrest. The same goes for the party which he has led since 2016. Its widely-approved social projects are being carried out not only in the city Orhei, but across the whole country. The young party has become a popular voice of the poor and a defender of high social standards and direct democracy, which has reportedly irritated the elitist political “establishment” in Moldova. The country has subsequently become divided between the supporters of European integration and the defenders of rapprochement with Russia, with the former accused of earning Moldova its unflattering ranking as the poorest country in Europe. Of the two years that Mr. Șor has now run the city and the party, exactly one year has been spent under house arrest. After producing important evidence in several government corruption cases, the mayor and business man, whose companies employ over three thousand people, now finds his civil rights and scope for action severely curbed. In their presentation during the press conference, lawyers Denis Ulanov and Julian Balan as well as Ilan’s associates argued that the outcome for Mr Șor would be determined rather by political expediency and not according to the letter of the law. June 22 this year marks exactly one year since Mr. Șor has been placed under house arrest. If he is not charged, he must be released according to Moldovan law. However, the prosecutors on the case have already stated their intention to ask the court either to deliver the verdict before June 22 or extend the house arrest. The first option would be undue pressure on the court, while the second – a direct breach of the law. The European Union (EU) has in recent years secured more than a billion euros worth of financial assistance for Moldova. A significant part of these funds were allocated for precisely the reform of the justice system. With the current treatment of cases like Ilan Shor, the EU may be interested in demanding both a report on how these funds were spent and a direct evidence of changes in the way justice is delivered. The outcome of the Șor’s case might become a litmus test establishing the true character of reform and the irreversibility of Moldova’s accession to European standards. The sense of urgency expressed by the members of the European Parliament during their meetings with the Șor Party is indeed a starting point in this determination to extract such inquiries from the Moldovan authorities. The Brussels Times
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European mobile operators brace for end of roaming charges


Long an important source of revenue for telecom companies, roaming charges will be lifted in Europe starting June 15, raising pressure on operators in a tight market.

Roaming charges within and outside Europe account for an average of around 5 per cent of sales for telephone operators in Europe, estimates Sylvain Chevallier of BearingPoint.

But the impact of the new measure will differ for corporate and individual clients, he adds.

On the Spanish market, subject to wide seasonal variations in business due to a reliance on tourism, Telefonica estimates the end of roaming charges in the EU will lead to a 1.2 per cent drop in its sales this year.

But the change can hardly come as a shock for telecom operators, according to Victor Marcais of Roland Berger, who noted the plans have been in the works for several years and are “largely anticipated”.

“If the operators are not ready, it will be more their fault than anything else,” said Dexter Thillien, analyst with BMI Research. “It has been very gradual.”

Still, telephone operators are taking different approaches as they gear up for the change.

In Italy, for example, Wind-Tre says it implemented the European requirements two months early, while its rival TIM said it would adhere to the new rules the day they come into effect.

In France, Free expanded the reach of its roaming-charge-free zone in March, whereas Orange and Bouygues did away with the fees in May.

A fourth company, SFR, is expected to follow suit on June 15.

It will be hard to tell exactly how much the move affects telecom operators since they no longer detail the revenues in their filings.

The European Commission estimates the end of roaming fees will cost European telecom operators €1.2 billion.

The market generates 4.7 billion euros a year, according to European telecoms regulator BEREC.

But the share of revenues from roaming charges already significantly declined in recent years as charges for calls and text messages dropped 90 per cent since 2007 and data charges declined 96 per cent since 2012 under EU regulations.

Data traffic, meanwhile, has grown 100-fold, according to the EU.

Bet on growth

But the telecoms business varies greatly from country to country, with Europe’s southern countries relying heavily on tourism compared to their northern counterparts.

“Southern countries like Portugal or Greece have a lot of temporary clients and fewer with longer-term plans, so revenues from roaming fees also helped finance the costs of reinforcing networks to help deal with seasonal peaks,” said Isabelle Jegouzo, who represents the European Commission in France.

The wholesale market — business among operators — was one of the main stumbling blocs in discussions as some operators were pushing for high prices while others sought to lower them.

“Unsurprisingly, the countries in the south wanted the highest prices whereas those in the north wanted the opposite. In the end, we got a typical European agreement, win-win, with no one completely winning but each one getting a bit,” said Dexter Thillien at BMI Research.

The price per gigabyte was established at €7.70, which is set to decline until 2022.

Operators are allowed to apply surcharges — in accordance with local regulators — if losses linked to roaming surpass 3 per cent of annual net profit.

“As consumers grow accustomed to using data throughout Europe they will undoubtedly be inclined to do so outside Europe, which will compensate for some of the losses,” said BearingPoint’s Chevallier.

The European Commission is making the same bet, said Jegouzo.

It aims to stimulate the digital economy in Europe in terms of numbers of users and services in the hope that consumption rises faster than the pace of dropping prices.

“This is where operators will see gains,” said Jegouzo.

“There are positive aspects that are being underestimated, particularly how the public sees the operators,” said Roland Berger’s Victor Marcais.

“It’s a chance to improve their image but also to benefit from the rise in consumption.” afp

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London tower block fire protesters storm town h


“Shame on you!”, they shouted in a stand-off involving around 30 people, as many police officers, as well as a dozen security guards.

Hundreds of people, including singer and human rights campaigner Lily Allen, were protesting outside, holding up signs saying “Justice for Grenfell”.

One protester held up a “Wanted” poster for an executive who manages the building, accusing him of “corporate manslaughter”.

Residents had long complained about fire safety risks at Grenfell Tower, but said the concerns of the multi-ethnic, largely working-class inhabitants had been brushed off by local authorities.

“We are in the richest borough in the UK and in this very borough we have a building where some of the poorest live and the safety measures are totally inadequate,” said Mustafa Al Mansur, one of the organisers of the demonstration.

“We need to know what commitment the council is taking to ensure this tragedy is not repeated,” he said. “We need to know exactly the number of people who were there during this tragedy.”

There were chaotic scenes as angry protesters shouted through a loudspeaker, with one woman saying: “We are in pain. We have been trodden on by people who say they are there to protect us.”

Another said: “It was a death trap and they knew it.”

The protesters also held up pictures of those still missing and now feared dead, as the crowd shouted: “No justice, no peace!” .


“We are not here to trouble people. We just want answers,” said Salwa Buamani, 25, who attended the protest with her three-year-old niece on her shoulders.

“I have friends in the tower and they are not telling us anything,” she told AFP, adding: “We can’t respect the bodies.”

The death toll was revised up Friday from 17 to 30, but police warned they expect it to increase further, with as many as 70 people thought to still be missing.

Many of those in the crowd were calling for the remains of their loved ones to be returned, highlighting how survivors had described walking over bodies on the stairwell as they fled.

“They (the authorities) are clearly aware roughly of the number of bodies,” said local resident Karen Brown, 36, whose friend’s 12-year-old daughter Jessica was among those missing.

“The fact that they are not telling people is very frustrating. We are not stupid we are aware people are dead. Just tell them!”

A man shouted: “Where are our children now? In the building! No one takes care of their bodies. Shame on you!”

The crowds moved back towards the blackened tower, gaining numbers until several thousands were marching through the affluent streets around Notting Hill and Kensington High Street.

It developed an almost festive atmosphere, with locals providing free food and revellers in pubs and residents on balconies standing up and applauding as the protesters walked by.

But there was still anger, largely directed at Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, who was earlier heckled and booed after visiting survivors in a church nearby.

“Theresa May it’s time to go” they shouted, while others held up banners saying “Tories out”. afp

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Israeli officer killed, three Palestinian attackers shot dead: police


An Israeli policewoman was stabbed and killed in an attack outside Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday and security forces shot dead three suspected Palestinian assailants, police said.

The attack took place as Muslims marked the end of the third Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan, during which tens of thousands of Palestinians from east Jerusalem and the West Bank attended prayers at the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site.

“Female border policewoman injured critically in attack at Damascus gate,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld wrote in a statement. “3 Arab terrorists shot by police units that responded at the scene.”

Police said the three were killed.

The policewoman was taken to hospital in critical condition and later died of her wounds. She was identified as Hadas Malka, 23, a staff sergeant major.

According to police, two perpetrators opened fire at a group of police officers who returned fire, and a third stabbed the border policewoman a short distance away before being shot.

Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevy identified the three attackers as Palestinians from the West Bank.

- Ramadan activity -

Israel had eased restrictions on the entrance of Palestinians from the West Bank for Ramadan, including permitting daily family visits during Sundays through Thursdays.

“During Ramadan there are large numbers of (Palestinian) youths who enter without permits, they take advantage of Ramadan to be in Jerusalem,” Halevy told media at the scene of the attack.

Following the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a phone consultation with the chief of police and public security minister, and decided to cancel the family visits, a police statement read.

Netanyahu, however, did not revoke the permission given to Palestinian men aged over 40 from the West Bank to enter Jerusalem for Friday prayers, police said.

The area around Damascus Gate was sealed off in the hours after the attack, with a few youths throwing fireworks at security forces.

A road leading to Damascus Gate full of stalls opened especially for Ramadan was closed off by police, and a shopkeeper said this would normally be one of the busiest nights of the year.

Inside the Old City shops were open but the atmosphere was subdued and numbers of people much lower than normal.

Large numbers of heavily armed security forces were patrolling throughout the Old City, an AFP reporter said.

- ‘Popular terror activity’ -

The Shin Bet internal security agency identified the three perpetrators as Braa Salah and Asama Atta, both born in 1998, and Adel Ankush, born the following year.

All three were from Deir Abu Mashal, a village near Ramallah, and had been arrested for or involved in “popular terror activity,” a Shin Bet statement read.

A fourth Palestinian, a Hebron resident who had been identified by Palestinian security as a perpetrator, was in fact a passerby who was wounded by gunshots and taken to hospital, Israeli police said.

Medics said four people besides the officer were wounded in the incident, two of them moderately and two lightly. Two of those wounded were Palestinians from east Jerusalem.

The Islamist movement Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip condemned the shooting of the Palestinians as a “crime by the occupation.”

A spokesman for the movement, Hazem Qassem, said the attack was “proof that the Palestinian people are leading a revolution against the enemy.”

He also said the attack proved the Palestinian Authority’s policy of security coordination with Israel was wrong, calling it “a national crime”.

A wave of unrest that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 272 Palestinians, 42 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP tally.

Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks.

The Old City in annexed east Jerusalem is one of the focal points of the wave of violence. afp

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Jordanian stabs Israeli officer in Jerusalem, shot dead: police


A Jordanian man stabbed and wounded an Israeli officer in annexed east Jerusalem on Saturday before being shot dead, police said.

The officer was taken to hospital with “moderate” injuries after the attack in the walled Old City, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement.

Police identified the assailant as Mohammad Skaji, a 57-year-old Jordanian who the statement said had “entered Israel a few days ago”.

They said he brandished a knife and stabbed the policeman in one of the alleys of the Old City before the wounded officer, who had just come off duty, shot him dead.

Two Israeli passers-by tried to help the policeman, police added.

The Jordanian government denounced the “crime” of the death of its citizen, giving his full name as Mohammed Abdullah Salim al-Kassaji.

“The Israeli government, which is the occupying force, bears responsibility for the shooting of a Jordanian citizen in occupied east Jerusalem which led to his martyrdom,” government spokesman Mohamed Momani said in a statement.

“The government denounces this heinous crime… and has asked Israel to provide full details about it,” he added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office responded, condemning what it called “the Jordanian government spokesman’s support for the terrorist attack”.

“The security cameras clearly show a Jordanian tourist stabbing an Israeli officer,” it said in a statement.

“Just as Israel condemns terrorist attacks in Jordan, Jordan should condemn attacks in Israel.”

In 1994, Jordan made peace with Israel. Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries to have peace agreements with the Jewish state.

A wave of unrest that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 263 Palestinians, 41 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP count.

Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, the Israeli authorities say.

Others were shot dead during protests or clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

The violence has subsided in recent months. afp

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Newly restored shrine at Jesus’ tomb reopened in Jerusalem


The ornate shrine surrounding what is believed to be Jesus’ tomb was reopened at a ceremony in Jerusalem on Wednesday (March 22) following nine months of delicate restoration work.

Religious leaders opened the ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.

Centuries of candle smoke and visiting pilgrims had left the 19th-century ornate edicule or shrine discoloured and almost black.

Parts of it were also coming loose, with warnings that it was structurally unsound and posed a risk to the millions of pilgrims who visit the site every year.

Israeli authorities briefly closed it in 2015 over security fears.

Following a US$3.7 million (S$5.1 million) renovation led by the church’s three main Christian denominations, the tomb has been painstakingly restored to its former glory – including a warm reddish-yellow colouring.

“Before this the monument was black,” chief renovator Antonia Moropoulou told AFP at the site. “This is the actual colour of the monument, the colour of hope.”

Unlike other parts of the church, which were renovated between the 1960s and 1990s, the edicule had been neglected.

Mr Moropoulou explained that they had systematically dismantled, cleaned and renovated almost all of the edicule, including the columns and upper and inner domes.

A window has been installed to allow pilgrims to see the bare stone of the ancient burial cave for the first time. The new structural integrity means a protective cage installed 70 years ago by the British is no longer necessary.

“The deformations of the holy edicule are addressed and the structural integrity is assured,” Mr Moropoulou said.

Mr Samuel Aghoyan, the superior of the Armenian Church at the Sepulchre which co-financed the project, said that after the renovation the edicule looked “like a brand new building”.


In October, perhaps the most dramatic moment in the renovation occurred when the cave thought to be the tomb of Jesus was opened for the first time in centuries.

Marble slabs were removed to allow for the chamber’s reinforcement. They found a top slab dating from the era of the Crusades, indicating that the tomb had not been opened for 700 years, Mr Moropoulou said.

Underneath they found another from the era of Constantine the Great, the emperor who began the Roman empire’s transition to Christianity in the fourth century AD.

“When we opened the slabs we discovered within the internal masonry all the layers of history – from Constantinian to Byzantine, to Crusaders to Renaissance,” Mr Moropoulou said.

Whether the site is indeed the place of Jesus’s burial has long been a matter of dispute.

Some Christians believe he was buried in the Garden Tomb, outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, but Mr Moropoulou said their findings supported the Sepulchre as the location.

Asked if the slabs supported the argument that Jesus was buried there, she said it was “not a matter of an argument”.

“It is a matter of revealing a tomb which is alive and which is influencing us working here and all the world.”

The work is not the end of plans to renovate the church.

Mr Aghoyan said they have “tentative” plans to fix the basement of the edicule as well as the “entire floor of the church”.

Such work would require around US$6 million, according to estimates.

The Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic denominations share custody of the church, but disputes between the three have led to renovations being delayed for decades.

Mr Aghoyan admitted there were tensions between the churches at times. “We are not in love with each but we love each other,” he said with a smile.

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Spanish media denounces xenophobia and unjustified use of pre-trial detention

The Spanish Courts have so far ignored the request to identify the Judge of the High Court (Audiencia Provincial) of Las Palmas (Spain) who made xenophobic and offensive remarks in the courtroom during a deliberation with three other judges.

The tape of the conversation taking place between judges Salvador Alba, Emilio Moya and Carlos Vielba was uncovered by Spanish newspaper Canarias 7. The audio log, containing racial slurs against citizens of Russia, Italy and Romania among others, and misogynic expressions is publicly available, and was aired on Spanish national TV stations.

Despite the media outcry, the Spanish Ministry of Justice has so far taken no steps to remove or otherwise sanction the involved judges. Furthermore, it has even ignored the request, lodged by the Consulate of Russian Federation in Las Palmas, to identify the judge who made the offensive remarks.

During an interview on aired Spanish National Television (TVE), Mr. Jose Antonio Penichet, the attorney of the Consulate, raised the question of whether the xenophobic attitude of Las Palmas judiciary is to blame for a flagrantly unjust treatment of the family of Spanish entrepreneur of Russian-Jewish origins, also known as “The Kokorev Case”. Vladimir Kokorev, as well as his wife and son, remain in pre-trial detention in Las Palmas (Spain) on unclear charges and without access to the case file for already over 18 months, with no expectation of a trial or even a formal accusation.

The pre-trial detention is ostensibly motivated by the judge Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano by “high flight risk”, which decisions have been confirmed by the High Court of Las Palmas.

Mr. Penichet argued that Vladimir Kokorev and his family members, with no prior convictions or criminal records, had voluntarily consented the extradition to Las Palmas from Panama, where they remained on bail for several months without any attempts to escape. Furthermore, Vladimir Kokorev (66) had suffered serious medical problems in the past years: a heart attack, minor stroke and prostate cancer. Those medical issues, are further exacerbated by over a year and a half in prison.

“I am confident that if Vladimir had a Spanish family name, he would have not suffer the same treatment,” said Mr. Penichet.

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