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After losing friends on Oct. 7, this Israeli NCAA basketball player looks for an escape on the court

(JTA) — Romi Levy glides towards the basket, her sole focus on finishing at the net in the University of South Florida’s practice facility. Moments later, during a break in practice, she checks her phone, hoping not to see any alerts about rocket alarms in her hometown of Herzliya, Israel.

More than 6,000 miles from home at a U.S. university, Levy always thought about Israel often. But things changed on Oct. 7, when some of her high school friends were killed during Hamas’ terror attack on the Re’im music festival. Her cousin, one year younger and like “a little brother,” is on the front lines of the war.

“Trying to stay on top of school and basketball and also knowing everything going on at home was hardest the first week, and it still is hard,” Levy told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I’m just trying to do my best and make sure that everybody at home is OK and try to be there and support them.”

Basketball is an escape. Levy’s time with the team, about six hours per day at the team’s practice facility, gets her away from watching the news “nonstop.”

“I just love basketball so much that when I get on the court I just have fun,” Levy said. “I know that if something were to happen my phone is right there, so I don’t need to think about it when I play basketball.”

She was already looking to turn her college career around on the court this year. This past March, after an injury-plagued three years at Auburn University, Levy put her name in the NCAA transfer portal. More than 40 Division I women’s college basketball programs reached out, illustrating the 6-foot-3 wing player’s potential.

“New life, New team, New position. Starting it all over!” she captioned an Instagram post after transferring to USF.

Born and raised Jewish, Levy is a third-generation standout Israeli athlete. Her grandmother, Tamara Metal Schumacher, was the first female Israeli Olympian, competing in the 1952 Games in the high jump and long jump. She also played for the country’s national basketball team, as did her mother. Levy’s “23” tattoo on her arm honors her grandmother’s Olympic number.

Levy is also a dual Israel-American citizen. Her father, Alon, a former professional soccer player and Ironman triathlete, lived in Los Angeles for a decade and became an American citizen. He and Romi lived in Boca Raton, Florida, during her freshman year of high school, where she attended Olympic Heights Community High School. They moved back to Israel at the end of that school year.

Between graduating from Hof Hasharon High School and beginning college, Levy completed Israel’s mandatory two-year national service requirement. During her service, spent at her parents’ rehabilitation center working with Israel Defense Force veterans, Levy also represented the Israeli national team at the U18 Women’s European Championships, leading the team to a bronze medal.

She enrolled at Auburn in 2020 on the recommendation of Israeli three-time Olympic swimmer Yoav Bruck, a 1994 Auburn graduate and friend of her parents. Levy posted her best season to date as a freshman, averaging 5.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game en route to SEC All-Freshman Team honors.

She then missed her sophomore season due to an ACL tear suffered in her left knee and injured her meniscus in both knees during a preseason practice. She made a strong return, posting 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in 23 appearances for Auburn last season, but Levy played through pain. Unable to straighten her leg all the way, it swelled to the point where she needed it drained and took steroid shots. With Auburn out of any postseason play, Levy sought an MRI. She again underwent season-ending knee surgery in February.

She called Auburn — where she celebrated Jewish holidays with men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl and his family — “a great place for school, but for basketball it wasn’t a good fit for me.” USF boasts a stronger women’s basketball program: While Auburn finished a solid No. 81 out of 361 teams in last year’s NCAA NET Rankings, USF finished No. 39.

Levy likes to play far from the basket on offense. A physical lefty with a deft shooting touch, she flashed 3-point range during her time at Auburn but mainly played with her back to the basket in the post. At USF, she’s transitioning back to her natural position on the wing.

Carsen McFadden, a current member of the Auburn women’s basketball team in Levy’s recruiting class, told JTA she appreciated learning about Jewish and Israeli culture from Levy — such as the fact that Hebrew is written from right to left. McFadden, who called Levy her “best friend,” acknowledged Levy’s efforts to stay positive during a trying time at Auburn, always there to lend a listening ear and a hug.

Outside of basketball, Levy felt comfortable with USF because of its large international student population — more than 50% of the undergraduate population in the fall of 2021, according to the school. At USF, she has also found a larger Jewish community, attending events at the school’s Hillel center and Chabad house and in the greater Tampa community, as her busy schedule permits. She does her best to celebrate all of the Jewish holidays stateside but longs for extended family’s Friday night Shabbat dinners.

Levy struggled with injury issues at Auburn and is looking for a clean start at the University of South Florida. (South Florida Athletics)

“We’d do the Kiddush and all that,” Levy said. “Seeing everyone together is something I miss. Friday nights aren’t as special here as they are in Israel.”

Levy’s parents still live in Israel, roughly an hour by car from the Gaza Strip. Alon Levy traveled from Israel to Tampa this week to visit his daughter and attend her first game at USF, a 76-61 win over UT Arlington in which Romi scored 10 points across 21 minutes of action. Alon said he and his wife Liat communicate with Romi and their older daughter, Sean, a New York City-based model, daily.

“I can’t explain what we are feeling, but we are in shock, all of Israel is for what happened,” Alon said. “I think almost everybody in Israel has someone that something happened to. There are no words to explain it.”

He told Romi not to look at the news too much and try to focus on her new beginnings in Florida.

“I’m coming now, also, to give her a hug and see how she feels,” he said. “From a distance, you never know exactly how your children are feeling. They always say they are OK. But she’s OK. She’s OK.”

The post After losing friends on Oct. 7, this Israeli NCAA basketball player looks for an escape on the court appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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The Associated Press Removes Threats of Violence and Hamas Support From Articles

Vandalism outside the home of Brooklyn Museum Director Anne Pasternak. Photo: New York Mayor Eric Adams’ Twitter account.

Even as authorities from Sydney to Brooklyn were still investigating and removing pro-Hamas graffiti, the Associated Press engaged in a scrubbing of a different sort.

In a June 10 article about the anti-Israel vandalism of the US consulate in Sydney, the Associated Press initially whitewashed a menacing symbol used to denote support for Hamas since the terror organization’s Oct. 7 terror massacre of murder, rape and countless other atrocities (“Australia PM urges activists to ‘turn down the heat’ after US consulate vandalized over Gaza war“).

The AP euphemistically reported about the symbols used to express support for the designated terror organization as follows:

Two inverted red triangles, seen by many as a symbol of Palestinian resistance, were also painted on the front of the building.

A screenshot of the AP’s headline about the vandalism in Australia, along with an accompanying video which briefly shows the red triangles:

Given that Hamas uses the red triangle in its videos documenting attacks on Israelis, it signifies support for the designated terror organization. “Resistance” doesn’t quite convey the horrors that went down on Oct. 7.

The New York Post detailed the association of the red triangles with Hamas terrorism:

The triangle became a prevalent symbol online and offline beginning in November 2023 following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s aggressive retaliatory offensive, according to the Anti Defamation League.

It first appeared in propaganda videos from the al-Qassam brigades — Hamas’ military wing — to highlight an Israeli soldier that was about to be killed or wounded in a targeted attack by the terrorists.

In the clips, the red triangle followed the target, which was then hit with a sniper’s bullet, a rocket-propelled grenade or another deadly blast.

“Though it can be used innocuously in general pro-Palestine social media posts, the inverted red triangle is now used to represent Hamas itself and glorify its use of violence in many popular anti-Zionist memes and political cartoons,” the ADL says on its website.

For example, the group said, anti-Israel protesters will put the symbol over an image of Israeli soldiers or on a Star of David “as a way to call for further violent resistance.”

In response to communication from CAMERA’s Israel office, the AP moderately improved its explanation of the red triangles, revising the sentence to at least include reference to Hamas:

Two inverted red triangles, seen by some as a symbol of Palestinian resistance but by others as supporting the militant group Hamas, were also painted on the front of the building.

While an AP video paired with the article briefly showed the red triangles defacing the US consulate, the AP’s still photographs made do with boarded up windows. The accompanying captions also ignored the sinister red triangles:

A couple walks past the boarded windows at the U.S. consulate as police investigate the vandalism in Sydney, Monday, June 10, 2024. A suspect is believed to have smashed nine holes in the reinforced glass windows of the building in North Sydney after 3 a.m., a police statement said. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Meanwhile, red triangle vandalism took an even darker turn when the pro-terror symbol, used repeatedly to mark targets, appeared June 11 on the New York co-op building where Anne Pasternak, the Jewish director of the Brooklyn Museum, lives.

In coverage of that incident, the AP didn’t simply scrub the pro-Hamas significance of the symbol. Instead, the AP entirely sliced the ominous red triangles out of the story, which referred only to red paint. In his Jan. 13 article, Philip Marcelo selectively reported (“Apparent Gaza activists hurl paint at homes of Brooklyn Museum leaders, including Jewish director“):

People purporting to be pro-Palestinian activists hurled red paint at the homes of top leaders at the Brooklyn Museum, including its Jewish director, and also splashed paint across the front of diplomatic buildings for Germany and the Palestinian Authority early Wednesday, prompting a police investigation and condemnation from city authorities.

Mayor Eric Adams, in a post on the social platform X, shared images of a brick building splashed with red paint with a banner hung in front of the door that called the museum’s director, Anne Pasternak, a “white-supremacist Zionist.”

But the images that Mayor Adams shared didn’t merely show “a brick building splashed with red paint” and a banner denouncing Pasternak as a “white supremacist Zionist.”

Adams’ post on X includes four photographs of the vandalism, all displaying the huge red triangles which absolutely cannot be missed. And yet AP chose not to note the presence of the threatening imagery, much less explain its significance.

This is not peaceful protest or free speech. This is a crime, and it’s overt, unacceptable antisemitism.

These actions will never be tolerated in New York City for any reason. I’m sorry to Anne Pasternak and members of @brooklynmuseum‘s board who woke up to hatred like this.


— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) June 12, 2024

The AP’s ubiquitous photographers — the prolific bunch churns out 1.2 million images annually — also didn’t manage to capture the shocking scene of Pasternak’s home defaced with what amounts to a murder threat.

Instead, the cadre of photojournalists suffice with an image of the German consulate, which was vandalized with red paint, apparently applied in an abstract arrangement, sans red triangles. Like Marcelo’s article, the photograph’s caption also paints over the pro-Hamas imagery, referring to a random splashing of color:

Red paint covers portions of the entrance to the German consulate building, Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in New York. Pro-Palestinian protesters have vandalized locations associated with the Brooklyn Museum and United Nations in New York City, throwing red paint across their entrances in opposition to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AP Photo/Sophie Rosenbaum)

Not only does the caption neglect to note the Hamas-linked graphic, it also ignores that the “locations associated with the Brooklyn Museum” were private homes.

It’s not just Hamas graphics that are subjected to AP’s scrubbing. A pro-Hamas organization also gets sanitized.

Here’s how the AP’s Marcelo whitewashes the pro-Hamas Within Our Lifetime group:

The protest group Within Our Lifetime and other organizers of that demonstration said the museum is “deeply invested in and complicit” in Israel’s military actions in Gaza through its leadership, trustees, corporate sponsors and donors — a claim museum officials have denied.

He says not a word about the organization’s support for Hamas. According to ADL, Within Our Lifetime:

has hosted or co-sponsored at least 78 anti-Israel rallies many of which included explicit support for violence against Israeli civilians by U.S. designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations  Hamas, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hezbollahthe Houthis and affiliated individuals such as Leila Khaled and Hamas’ military wing spokesperson Abu Obaida. WOL also expressed enthusiastic support for Iran’s unprecedented April 13 drone-and-missile attack on Israel.

Marcelo similarly sluices down Within Our Lifetime’s horrifying and deep embrace of terror at the demonstration outside the Nova Festival massacre last week. His censored account states:

The paint attacks came the same week that Within Our Lifetime organized a large demonstration outside a New York City exhibition memorializing victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on the Tribe of Nova music festival. The group called it “Zionist propaganda” and dismissed the music festival, where hundreds died, as “a rave next to a concentration camp.”

The AP spares its readers from the most disturbing aspects from the event. As The Times of Israel reported:
Protesters set off flares, flew flags of Hamas’s armed al-Qassam Brigades terror wing and of the Hezbollah terror group, and carried banners with slogans such as “Long live October 7” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.”
 On June 11, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) denounced the antisemitism of the pro-Hamas crowd outside the Nova Festival exhibit, twice citing those most heinous lines:

What was even worse, or at least adding salt into the wounds was that just a day or two after I visited the exhibit, protestors gathered outside the exhibit chanting repugnant antisemitic phrases, donning banners that read “Long Live October 7th” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.” How low can you go ?

Having visited the exhibit and seeing those young people and then knowing and seeing on film what happened to them at the vicious hands of Hamas, and then having people come outside and protest and say “Long Live October 7th” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.” How repugnant. How despicable. How terribly unnerving that humanity could sink that low.

And yet, at this low point for humanity, AP has relegated these repugnant slogans glorifying mass murder to the dustbin of history.

Tamar Sternthal is the director of CAMERA’s Israel Office. A version of this article previously appeared on the CAMERA website.

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Netanyahu Disbands War Cabinet, Says No Need After Gantz’s Resignation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

i24 News — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that he will dissolve the six-member War Cabinet, a move that was expected following the departure from government of the centrist former general Benny Gantz.

During a meeting of the State Security Cabinet, Netanyahu said that the War Cabinet was established following Blue and White leader Gantz’s demand to join the coalition, and that after he left there is no reason to maintain it.

Netanyahu made it clear that he will continue limited security consultations. He rejected establishing a forum of coalition heads for security consultations, an idea that was brought up during the meeting.

 In practice, the expanded cabinet will meet more often. According to Israeli law, the powers and responsibilities for making decisions on managing the war effort are vested in State Security Cabinet.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that, regardless, Netanyahu will continue to consult regularly with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and other representatives of the defense establishment.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir lobbied to join the War Cabinet since its inception in the beginning of the war with Hamas in October. After Gantz announced he would leave the coalition and demand elections, thereby resigning from the War Cabinet, the far-right Ben Gvir demanded to be added to the small council. Such a move likely would have intensified strains with international partners including the United States.

The war cabinet was formed after Gantz joined Netanyahu in a national unity government at the start of the conflict. Gantz left the government last week over what he described as Netanyahu’s failure to form a strategy for the Gaza war.

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Only 9% of Palestinians Think Hamas Committed War Crimes; 67% Support Oct. 7 Atrocities

Marwan Barghouti gestures as Israeli police bring him into the District Court for his judgment hearing in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2004. Photo: Reuters / Pool / David Silverman.

There have been shocking poll results in the latest survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR).

Only 9% of Palestinians think Hamas committed war crimes, while a whopping 67% support the Oct. 7 attacks.

For those who still delude themselves into thinking that Palestinians are moderate, think again.

For president, Palestinians overwhelmingly prefer the Hamas leader (46%) over the Palestinian Authority (PA)/Fatah leader (5%). Fatah is only preferred when their candidate is the terrorist Marwan Barghouti, a convicted murderer, who is serving 5 life sentences.

This must be an eye-opener for Americans and Europeans, who are pressuring Israel to accept the Palestinian Authority as a peace partner. The PA represents no one. According to this poll, the Palestinian population is not interested in peace. Mahmoud Abbas only represents himself. And if the Palestinians ever have a future election, they are certain to elect a terrorist as president and Hamas to rule the parliament.

The following are some of the most important findings in the latest poll by the PSR. Palestinians were questioned between May 26 and June 1, 2024. The poll includes Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Was Hamas’ decision to launch the October 7 offensive correct or incorrect?

Correct: 67% (West Bank 73%, Gaza Strip 57%)

Incorrect: 26% (West Bank 17%, Gaza Strip 41%)

Are you satisfied with the performance in the war?

Hamas: 64% satisfied

Fatah (Palestinian Authority): 14% satisfied

War crimes

97% – Israel committed war crimes

9% – Hamas committed war crimes

Who should rule the Gaza Strip after the war?

Hamas: 71%

Current PA (with or without Abbas): 12%

A new PA: 16%

If presidential elections were held today between these two, for whom would you vote?

Mahmoud Abbas from Fatah: 5%

Ismail Haniyeh from Hamas: 46%

If presidential elections were held today between these three, for whom would you vote?

Mahmoud Abbas from Fatah: 2%

Ismail Haniyeh from Hamas: 23%

Marwan Barghouti from Fatah: 47%

If elections were held today for parliament, how would you vote?

Hamas: 31%

Fatah: 17%

Other parties: 4%

Will not vote or don’t know: 51%

Which side will win the war?

Hamas: 67%

Israel: 11%

89% say Mahmoud Abbas should resign.

Itamar Marcus is Founder and Director of Palestinian Media Watch, where a version of this article first appeared.

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