Bon Appetite: Buffalo meat declared kosher (& Aliza Olmert’s art quadruples in value)

May 18, 2006

* Israeli said to buy Van Gogh portrait for $40.3 million

* This is the second of three lighter, less political, dispatches this week. This one contains articles on business and society. The other two concern media, music and entertainment, and sport.

 

CONTENTS

1. When Warren met Zion
2. Israeli police shut down Marijuana day… because it’s illegal to play music
3. Will El Al now serve Buffalo?
4. “Buffett to buy 80 percent of Israel’s Iscar” (Reuters, May 6, 2006)
5. “Israeli businessman buys Van Gogh portrait?” (Yediot Ahronot, May 4, 2006)
6. “Israeli first lady’s paintings rise in value” (Jewish Telegraph Agency, May 16, 2006)
7. “Israeli Internet surfers lead the world” (Globes, May 8, 2006)
8. “Jerusalem: Haredim destroy internet cafe” (Yediot Ahronot, May 2, 2006)
9. “Inspectors close down ‘Marijuana Day’” (Yediot Ahronot, May 6, 2006)
10. “New regulation: Gays can inherit partners’ assets” (Yediot Ahronot, May 7, 2006)
11. “Buffalo meat declared kosher” (Yediot Ahronot, May 9, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

WHEN WARREN MET ZION

For those who haven’t yet read the news elsewhere, Warren Buffett, the world’s second richest man, has bought 80 percent of Iscar, an Israeli company that manufactures metalworking tools used by makers of heavy equipment such as cars and airplanes. This deal is being widely regarded as a fantastic vote of confidence in the well-being of the Israeli economy. It is Buffett’s first large-scale non-American investment, and his third-largest investment anywhere.

As Jerusalem Post columnist Amotz Asa-El writes: “As the world’s most successful and admired investment guru, you have just made a statement more effective than 1,000 Zionist spin doctors will ever be able to make. The fact that you had your $136 billion company put a fortune in this famously turbulent country without even visiting it has been particularly heartening for us.” For more on the deal, see the first article below.

Both the New York Times and Independent (UK) newspapers have claimed that Israeli businessman Sami Ofer was the mysterious buyer of Vincent Van Gogh’s 1890 painting, “L’Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux.” The painting was sold for $ 40.3 million at auction by Christie’s.

In other art-related news, it has been reported that paintings by Aliza Olmert, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, are now being sold for four times their value since her husband was elected to office.

ISRAELI POLICE SHUT DOWN MARIJUANA DAY… BECAUSE IT’S ILLEGAL TO PLAY MUSIC

According to the most thorough survey ever conducted on Internet use (by a company in Virginia), Israelis spend on average 57.5 hours per month online, more than any other people in the world – the global average is 31.3 hours. In second place is Finland (49.3 hours). However, these statistics clearly do not take into account Haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews) who have recently resorted to destroying an Internet cafe in Jerusalem. Some Haredi rabbis have outlawed use of the Internet as they claim it incites the Haredi community to commit what they regard as sins. (See articles below.)

May 6, 2006 was International Marijuana Day. In Tel Aviv Israeli police shut down the event being held in a Tel Aviv park, but not because of the use of the banned weed – but because the planners failed to obtain the appropriate permit to play music.

WILL EL AL NOW SERVE BUFFALO?

As another reminder of the liberal side of Israel, the penultimate article below reports that the Israeli Ministry of Justice has recommended that Israeli homosexuals can now inherit their partners’ assets. Additionally, in Israel one can prepare a will using a video recording, a first of its kind decision – no other country in the world permits the preparation of a visual will.

The final article reports on the latest culinary development in the Jewish state, with news that, in case you had your doubts, buffalo meat is, indeed, kosher. The new kosher ruling made by none other than Israel’s chief rabbi, follows lengthy deliberations between the rabbi and scientists from Bar Ilan University. Buffalo meat will now be produced for the mass market.

I attach eight articles below, with summaries first for those who don’t have time to read them in full.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

BUFFET INVESTS IN ISRAEL

“Buffett to buy 80 percent of Israel’s Iscar” (Reuters, May 6, 2006)

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., moving to bolster its international presence, said on Friday it would buy 80 percent of Israel’s Iscar Metalworking Cos. in a transaction valuing the closely-held tool firm at USD 5 billion…

The acquisition helps fulfill Buffett’s long-stated desire to make “major” acquisitions, which he said in March were needed to produce “truly satisfactory gains” in operating earnings at Berkshire, his insurance and investment company. It also reflects the billionaire’s plan to buy stakes in companies that earn much of their profits outside the United States.

“Iscar is a pretty easy business to understand and Buffett likes that,” said Donald Light, an insurance analyst with Celent LLC, who covers Berkshire. “You take metal, you bend it and you ship it out.” …

Iscar, based in Tefen, Israel, is controlled by the Wertheimer family, which will retain a 20 percent stake after the closing. Chairman Eitan Wertheimer, Chief Executive Jacob Harpaz and the rest of current management will remain in place. Eitan Wertheimer’s father founded the firm 50 years ago…

 

A MYSTERIOUS (ISRAELI?) BUYER PURCHASED THE PAINTING FOR $ 40.3 MILLION

“Israeli businessman buys Van Gogh portrait?” (Yediot Ahronot, May 4, 2006)

Israeli businessman Sami Ofer is apparently the man behind the recent purchase of a Van Gogh portrait for USD 40.3 million, the New York Times and the British Independent newspapers estimated…

The 1890 painting, “L’Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux,” is a portrait of one of the most recognizable figures in the history of art, Madame Ginoux, who was the owner of Cafe de la Gare in Arles, France. Vincent Van Gogh used to visit the cafe until he committed suicide, and Ginoux’s portrait was painted both by him and Paul Gauguin...

Franck Giraud, a Manhattan dealer, told the New York Times that the price the buyer paid “was a bargain.” ...

 

ALIZA OLMERT PAINTINGS QUADRUPLE IN PRICE

“Israeli first lady’s paintings rise in value” (Jewish Telegraph Agency, May 16, 2006)

(Full item)

The value of paintings by Ehud Olmert’s wife reportedly have quadrupled since he became Israeli prime minister. Yediot Ahronot reported Tuesday that Sotheby’s recently auctioned off a diptych titled “Pines” by Aliza Olmert for $12,000, after opening bids at $4,000. Though Olmert long has been an artist of note, before her husband became Israel’s prime minister last month her paintings generally sold for around $3,000, the newspaper noted.

 

ISRAELIS LEADS THE WORLD IN INTERNET USE

“Israeli Internet surfers lead the world” (By Ran Dagoni, Globes, May 8, 2006)

Israel leads the world in Internet use, according to a survey by comScore Networks, based in Reston, Virginia. The comScore World Metrix is the first true estimate of global online audience size and behavior. comScore says 694 million people, aged 15+, used the Internet worldwide from all locations in March 2006, 14% of the world’s total population within this age group…

According to comScore, average monthly hours online per unique visitor aged 15+ in Israel in March 2006 was 57.5, more than any other country, and double the figure for the US, which did not even make the list of top 15 countries in this category. The global average in March was 31.3 hours…

The top 15 online properties worldwide, among visitors aged 15+ in March were MSN-Microsoft sites (538.6 million visitors), Google sites (495.8 million) and Yahoo! sites (480.2 million)…

 

JERUSALEM: HAREDIM DESTROY INTERNET CAFE

“Jerusalem: Haredim destroy internet cafe” (By Haim Levinson, Yediot Ahronot, May 2, 2006)

Dozens of riled up ultra-orthodox broke into a Jerusalem internet cafe Monday, broke the doors and shattered the computers, claiming the place incites the haredi community to commit sins… The haredi crowd shattered the glass doors, went in and broke the computers and the cash register…

“They have been harassing us for six months since most of the customers here are ultra-orthodox,” said Max, who works at the place. “We will rebuild the place and will not give up.”

Thus far the ultra-Orthodox community resorted to taking pictures of the customers and intimidating them. Last week, however, rabbis of the community met and decided to escalate the fight and destroy other internet cafes.

 

ISRAELI POLICE SHUT DOWN MARIJUANA DAY… BECAUSE IT’S ILLEGAL TO PLAY MUSIC

“Inspectors close down ‘Marijuana Day’” (By Miri Chason, Yediot Ahronot, May 6, 2006)

People across the world, including Israel, marked on Saturday the International Marijuana Day. Special events were held in honor of the controversial plant in Jerusalem, Eilat and Tel Aviv, where the celebrations did not quite go as planned.

About an hour after the Tel Aviv event was opened in Hayarkon Park, municipal inspectors arrived at the place and asked that the music be turned off, as planners of the celebrations failed to obtain the appropriate permit to play music. Consequently, the several dozen people that were in the park to party were forced to leave the place…

 

NEW REGULATION: GAYS CAN INHERIT PARTNERS’ ASSETS

“New regulation: Gays can inherit partners’ assets” (By Tal Rosner, Yediot Ahronot, May 7, 2006)

Major changes in the inheritance and wills regulations in Israel: According to a recent Ministry of Justice memorandum, which is based on research conducted by the Inheritance Committee, gays can inherit their partners’ assets. The decision is pending approval of the Ministers’ Legislative Committee and the Knesset’s, but it is expected to be approved by both the ministers and MKs.

According to the new memorandum, one can prepare a will using a video recording, a first of its kind decision – no other country in the world permits the preparation of a visual will…

Attorney Irit Rosenblum, the founder and chairperson of the New Family organization, said: “The inheritance memorandum includes the rights of same-sex couples to inherit each other, a required right in light of the 18,000 same-sex couples who live together in Israel. This should serve as the opening shot in the campaign for equality of financial rights of same-sex couples.” …

 

BON APPETITE: BUFFALO MEAT DECLARED KOSHER

“Buffalo meat declared kosher” (By Neta Sela, Yediot Ahronot, May 9, 2006)

The Chief Rabbinate has rendered water buffalo meat kosher. The kashrut certification was issued by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar following a request by two researchers from Bar-Ilan University…

Some identify the water buffalo with an animal mentioned in the bible, and according to data from the British Mandate, about 5,000 buffalos used to live in Israel…

Dr. Zohar Amar and Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, researchers from Bar-Ilan University, have been working in the past two years to find proof that would allow water buffalo meat to be declared kosher...

According to the researchers, water buffalo meat is very popular worldwide and offers great market potential, while buffalo milk is considered to be of very high quality, particularly for the production of cheese. In addition, it is said to have many medicinal qualities.



FULL ARTICLES

BUFFET TO BUY 80 PERCENT OF ISRAEL’S ISCAR

Buffett to buy 80 percent of Israel’s Iscar
World’s second richest man bids for 80 percent of Iscar, which manufactures metalworking tools used by makers of heavy equipment such as cars and airplanes; deal said worth USD 5 billion
Reuters
May 6, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3247579,00.html

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., moving to bolster its international presence, said on Friday it would buy 80 percent of Israel’s Iscar Metalworking Cos. in a transaction valuing the closely-held tool firm at USD 5 billion.

Berkshire also said that its first-quarter profit rose 70 percent to USD 2.31 billion, or USD 1,501 per share, helped by increasing auto insurance premiums and a successful bet the US dollar would fall.

The acquisition helps fulfill Buffett’s long-stated desire to make “major” acquisitions, which he said in March were needed to produce “truly satisfactory gains” in operating earnings at Berkshire, his insurance and investment company.

It also reflects the billionaire’s plan to buy stakes in companies that earn much of their profits outside the United States.

“Iscar is a pretty easy business to understand and Buffett likes that,” said Donald Light, an insurance analyst with Celent LLC, who covers Berkshire. “You take metal, you bend it and you ship it out.”

The purchase was announced on the eve of Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, where it is based.

There had been mounting market speculation that Buffett, the world’s second-richest person, would unveil a major acquisition to help rid Berkshire of some of its enormous cash stake. Berkshire ended March with USD 42.86 billion of cash.

Iscar, based in Tefen, Israel, manufactures metalworking tools used by makers of heavy equipment such as cars and airplanes. It has facilities in Tefen, the United States, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan and Korea.

The firm is controlled by the Wertheimer family, which will retain a 20 percent stake after the closing. Chairman Eitan Wertheimer, Chief Executive Jacob Harpaz and the rest of current management will remain in place. Eitan Wertheimer’s father founded the firm 50 years ago.

“As a truly international business, IMC is a top performer in its industry, with exposure to European, Asian and Latin American markets, as well as significant opportunities for growth as it continues to penetrate the North American market,” Buffett said. “We have the benefit of investing in a stable business with very significant growth prospects.”

UBS and the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz advised Iscar on the transaction. The law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP advised Berkshire. The purchase requires regulatory approval.

Earnings rise, currency stake falls

Quarterly net income for Berkshire rose from USD 1.36 billion, or USD 886 per share, a year earlier.

Profit before investment gains totaled USD 1.79 billion, or about USD 1,160 per share. On that basis, analysts polled by Reuters Estimates on average forecast USD 1,082 per share. Revenue rose 29 percent to USD 22.76 billion.

In insurance, auto insurer Geico Corp. posted a 10 percent increase in earned premiums. This helped offset a 14 percent decline at reinsurer General Re Corp., which was hurt by North American cancellations and nonrenewals.

Berkshire posted a USD 151 million gain from its bet the U.S. dollar will fall, but its stake in foreign currency contracts declined to USD 5.4 billion from USD 13.8 billion at year end.

 

ISRAELI BUSINESSMAN BUYS VAN GOGH PORTRAIT FOR $ 40.3 MILLION?

Israeli businessman buys Van Gogh portrait?
New York Times, Independent newspapers estimate mysterious buyer who paid USD 40.3 million for famous painting at Christie auction was none other than Israeli businessman Sami Ofer
Yediot Ahronot
May 4, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3247279,00.html

Israeli businessman Sami Ofer is apparently the man behind the recent purchase of a Van Gogh portrait for USD 40.3 million, the New York Times and the British Independent newspapers estimated.

A mysterious buyer purchased the painting by phone Tuesday evening at a Christie auction.

The 1890 painting, “L’Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux,” is a portrait of one of the most recognizable figures in the history of art, Madame Ginoux, who was the owner of Cafe de la Gare in Arles, France. Vincent Van Gogh used to visit the cafe until he committed suicide, and Ginoux’s portrait was painted both by him and Paul Gauguin.

Speculators outside the auction house estimated that the mysterious buyer was none other than Sami Ofer. Franck Giraud, a Manhattan dealer, told the New York Times that the price the buyer paid “was a bargain.”

According to estimations, the painting is worth USD 40 to 50 million.

A Picasso painting was sold in the same auction for USD 95 million. Out of the 50 painting on sale at the auction, 43 paintings were sold for a total of USD 180.2 million.

 

ISRAEL LEADS THE WORLD IN INTERNET USE

Israeli Internet surfers lead the world
Surfers in Israel spent on average 57.5 hours online in March, compared with a global average of 31.3 hours.
By Ran Dagoni
Globes
May 8, 2006

www.globes.co.il/serveen/

Israel leads the world in Internet engagement, according to a survey by comScore Networks, based in Reston, Virginia. The comScore World Metrix is the first true estimate of global online audience size and behavior. comScore says 694 million people, aged 15+, used the Internet worldwide from all locations in March 2006, 14% of the world’s total population within this age group. This number marks the first worldwide universe estimate based on a consistent methodology across all countries.

According to comScore, average monthly hours online per unique visitor aged 15+ in Israel in March 2006 was 57.5, more than any other country, and double the figure for the US, which did not even make the list of top 15 countries in this category. The global average in March was 31.3 hours.

In second place after Israel is Finland (49.3 hours), South Korea (47.2 hours), the Netherlands (43.5 hours), Taiwan (43.2 hours), Sweden (41.4 hours), Brazil (41.2 hours), Hong Kong (41.2 hours), Portugal (39.8 hours), and Canada (38.4 hours).

comScore Media Metrix president and CEO Peter Daboll said, “Today, the online audience in the US represents less than a quarter of Internet users across the globe, versus ten years ago when it accounted for two-thirds of the global audience.”

The top 15 online properties worldwide, among visitors aged 15+ in March were MSN-Microsoft sites (538.6 million visitors), Google sites (495.8 million) and Yahoo! sites (480.2 million). Daboll said, “While the ‘big three’ properties remain consistent among worldwide and US audiences, Wikipedia has emerged as a site that continues to increase in popularity, both globally and in the US.”

 

NO SINS PLEASE (BUT WE ARE ALLOWED TO BURN DOWN CAFES)

Jerusalem: Haredim destroy internet cafe
Dozens of ultra-Orthodox break into internet cafe, claiming place incites haredi community to commit sins
By Haim Levinson
Yediot Ahronot
May 2, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3246296,00.html

Religious dispute in Jerusalem: Dozens of riled up ultra-orthodox broke into a Jerusalem internet cafe Monday, broke the doors and shattered the computers, claiming the place incites the haredi community to commit sins.

On Monday night, the ultra-Orthodox crowd arrived at the internet cafe located in the center of the capital and began harassing other haredi people who were at the place surfing the internet. The rowdy crowd attempted to break into the place, but was unsuccessful after an employee locked the doors.

The haredi crowd shattered the glass doors, went in and broke the computers and the cash register, Israel’s leading newspaper reported Tuesday.

‘We won’t give up’

A special police force was dispatched to the place and forcefully dispersed the crowd, arresting five men.

“They have been harassing us for six months since most of the customers here are ultra-orthodox,” said Max, who works at the place. “We will rebuild the place and will not give up.”

Thus far the ultra-Orthodox community resorted to taking pictures of the customers and intimidating them. Last week, however, rabbis of the community met and decided to escalate the fight and destroy other internet cafes.

 

GONE TO POT

Inspectors close down ‘Marijuana Day’
Municipal inspectors pull plug on International Marijuana Day events in Tel Aviv after organizers failed to obtain permit to play music during celebration
By Miri Chason
Yediot Ahronot
May 6, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3247680,00.html

People across the world, including Israel, marked on Saturday the International Marijuana Day. Special events were held in honor of the controversial plant in Jerusalem, Eilat and Tel Aviv, where the celebrations did not quite go as planned.

About an hour after the Tel Aviv event was opened in Hayarkon Park, municipal inspectors arrived at the place and asked that the music be turned off, as planners of the celebrations failed to obtain the appropriate permit to play music. Consequently, the several dozen people that were in the park to party were forced to leave the place.

“It’s very disappointing that the organizers didn’t obtain the proper permits,” Alex Katznelson, 18, who came to Tel Aviv all the way from the southern town of Arad said. “The Marijuana Day events in the last few years have been very successful, and we expected that this time too there will be music, nice people smoking water-pipes, booze, and of course policemen and reporters. We knew they will close the party down, but we didn’t think it would happen so fast,” he added.

Eran Vered, who organized the event in previous years, lashed out at the people behind Saturday’s failed celebration: “What happened here today is a disgrace. I produced this event in the last eight years and it was never like this before. The organizers this year are like ‘toy anarchists,’ and that is why they refused to get the permits.”

One of the Day’s planners, who refused to be identified, said that she attempted to obtain an authorization for the event, “but the municipality wouldn’t give it to us, because this is serious business: You need a business license, as well as firefighters and Magen David Adom to be at the place. Nothing was organized beforehand.”

 

NEW REGULATION: GAYS CAN INHERIT PARTNERS’ ASSETS

New regulation: Gays can inherit partners’ assets
Major changes in inheritance regulations: Gays can inherit their partners’ assets; additionally: Admissible wills on video and wills for teens over 15
By Tal Rosner
Yediot Ahronot
May 7, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3248122,00.html

Major changes in the inheritance and wills regulations in Israel: According to a recent Ministry of Justice memorandum, which is based on research conducted by the Inheritance Committee, gays can inherit their partners’ assets. The decision is pending approval of the Ministers’ Legislative Committee and the Knesset’s, but it is expected to be approved by both the ministers and MKs.

According to the new memorandum, one can prepare a will using a video recording, a first of its kind decision – no other country in the world permits the preparation of a visual will.

There are four ways to prepare a will in Israel: Hand written will, a will that was read in front of witnesses, a will directed at authorities, and an oral will of a person on his/her death bed.

Another change the committee recommended is that couples who are separated for over three years but still officially registered as married cannot inherit each other.

Also, people who are officially registered as married but live a full family life with another partner are allowed to have their life-partner inherit them. In such a case, married couples have to be separated for over three years and live in the same household with their respective partner for the inheritance law to take effect.

‘New step is morally correct’

Another important clause in the memorandum is that teens over the age of 15 will be allowed to write their own wills after receiving court permission, since the current law forbids it. The court that will handle the teens’ cases only on the issue of whether the teen fully understands the judiciary ramification of his/her act.

Attorney Irit Rosenblum, the founder and chairperson of the New Family organization, responded to the new recommendations: “The inheritance memorandum includes the rights of same-sex couples to inherit each other, a required right in light of the 18,000 same-sex couples who live together in Israel. This should serve as the opening shot in the campaign for equality of financial rights of same-sex couples.”

Itay Pinkas, an advisor to Tel Aviv’s mayor on gay issues and a member of Tel Aviv’s City Council, said that the decision is appropriate and realistic. “I believe that the new step is morally correct and reflects reality. There are many gay couples who live together and there is no reason for their rights not to be secured – just like any other citizen in Israel,” Pinkas said.

 

BUFFALO MEAT DECLARED KOSHER

Buffalo meat declared kosher
Bad news for water buffalos: Chief rabbi issues kashrut certification after closely examining issue
By Neta Sela
Yediot Ahronot
May 9, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3248717,00.html

Bon Appetite: The Chief Rabbinate on Monday rendered water buffalo meat kosher. The kashrut certification was issued by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar following a request by two researchers from Bar-Ilan University.

Water buffalos used to be common in Israel, particularly near swamps and streams. Buffalo remains were found near the brooks of Israel’s coastal plane, Tiberias and the Hula nature reserve.

Some identify the water buffalo with an animal mentioned in the bible, and according to data from the British Mandate, about 5,000 buffalos used to live in Israel. Few of them can still be seen in the Hula nature reserve. Since then, no water buffalos have been bred in Israel and the buffalo meat was not rendered kosher by the Chief Rabbinate.

In order to declare meat kosher it is not enough for the specific animal to bear the signs mentioned in the bible testifying to its kashrut. According to the Halacha (Jewish law), there must also be a “tradition” testifying to the fact that the same animal was consumed in the past by kosher-keeping Jews.

Dr. Zohar Amar and Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, researchers from Bar-Ilan University, have been working in the past two years to find proof that would allow water buffalo meat to be declared kosher.

The two presented the chief rabbi with Halachic and historical sources proving that water buffalo slaughtering was a custom among Jewish communities in the past, as well as testimonies of elderly butchers, who were responsible for slaughtering buffalos in the past in Jerusalem, Petach Tikva, Bnei Brak and the Galilee.

Rabbi Shlomo Amar later met with the research team and representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Hula nature reserve, where he closely watched the buffalos in the area and personally examined the teeth structure and hoofs of a water buffalo skeleton presented to him.

This week, the rabbi once again examined buffalos being raised in Moshav Bitzron in the south of Israel, where he declared that after looking at all the data presented to him he will issue the longed-for kashrut certification.

Following the rabbi’s ruling, water buffalo breeders will be able to market the animal’s meat and milk under an official Chief Rabbinate authorization.

According to the researchers, water buffalo meat is very popular worldwide and offers great market potential, while buffalo milk is considered to be of very high quality, particularly for the production of cheese. In addition, it is said to have many medicinal qualities.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.