Week in Review: Israel Strikes Natural Gas Deal with Palestinians, the Roots of Jewish Surnames, Harry Styles’s Jewish Kick, and more

By | Jan 09, 2014
In a rare example of Israeli and Palestinian partnership, investors behind Israel’s largest natural gas reserve, Leviathan, have struck a $1.2 billion export deal with the Palestinian Power Generation Company. The agreement, which makes the PPGC the first foreign recipient of Leviathan gas, allows the company to purchase around 4.75 billion cubic meters of gas over a 20-year period. Leviathan, which sits about 80 miles west of Haifa in the Mediterranean, is expected to begin pumping in 2017. The PPGC plans to use the gas for a $300 million power plant in Jenin, in the West Bank, expected to be operational by late 2016. The deal marks an important step forward for Leviathan’s investors, who face uncertainty over finding gas buyers in a volatile and politically fraught region. Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Greece have been bandied about as potential export targets but, as NBC correspondent Martin Fletcher writes in a Moment report on Israel’s booming natural gas industry, “Surrounded by hostile or unfriendly Arab nations, Israel is in a particularly tough position: It cannot export gas-generated power simply by transmitting the electricity through its neighbors’ power grids.” At the PPCG deal signing in Jerusalem earlier this week, Yossi Abu, CEO of Delek Drilling, a Leviathan stakeholder, said “natural gas acts as a bridge to peace … I hope in the future also citizens of neighboring countries can benefit from the development of the gas reservoirs discovered in recent years.”
British and American intelligence documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal agencies in the United States and the UK targeted former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for surveillance in January 2009. Former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was also marked, The Guardian reports.
Israel will get its first Bitcoin ATM machine in March. The ATM, which will be located in Tel Aviv, allows users to convert regular currency into digital currency called Bitcoins.
Israel has passed legislation making it illegal to post pictures or videos of sexual acts online without bilateral consent. The bill, which passed through the Knesset unanimously, is in response to a nationwide upsurge in revenge porn. One lawmaker referred to this form of sexual assault as “virtual rape.”
Journalist John Judis takes on the clampdown of anti-Israel speech at U.S. campus Hillels, and argues that pro-Israel sentiment is no longer a vital component of American Jewish identity, especially among college-age Jews. “It suggests a growing rift among younger Jews over American policy toward Israel that anticipates divisions just appearing among Jewish adults,” he writes in The New Republic. “The conflict over Hillel also touches on the question of what it means to be Jewish in America.”
One Holocaust restitution group says hundreds of items stolen from European Jews by the Nazis may be on display in Israel’s most prestigious museums and galleries. It’s collaborating with the Israel Museum, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and others, to help return the pieces to their lawful owners.
Ever wonder about the origins of those Jewish surnames you heard in synagogue, at Hebrew school or at summer camp? Slate (in a re-post from Jewish Currents) breaks down the roots of popular Jewish last names by place, occupation, personal traits, animal names, Hebrew acronyms, and more.
The New York Times imagines Woody Allen’s pop culture genealogy, with branches including Judd Apatow, Dave Chappelle and Federico Fellini.
One Direction star Harry Styles’s alleged interest in Judaism has drummed up controversy in the gossip world, with England’s Daily Mail reporting the tween pop star has developed a fascination with Hebrew and Jewish culture through his friendship with music video director Ben Winston. “He loves the Jewish community and wearing a Magen David,” Winston said, according to the Mail. Winston, however, took to Twitter this week, saying his quotes were fabricated.

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