World Briefs: Israel, Japan sign new defense agreement and more

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Israel, Japan sign new defense agreement
Israel and Japan signed a defense agreement allowing for greater military equipment and technology cooperation on Aug. 30 in a sign of closeness as they mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year, JTA reported.

From left: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Japanese Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu shake hands after signing a defense memorandum in Tokyo on Aug. 30. (David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images via JTA.org)

Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Japan trip comes at the tail end of a visit to the United States, where he discussed Iran’s nuclear program and other security issues with top officials, and as Japan faces heightened tensions in the Pacific following Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy that Beijing claims as its own.

Japan announced plans to increase its defense budget and develop longer-range missiles to counter threats from China and Russia.

Gantz said the new agreement “will strengthen the defense capability of each country as well as our joint contribution to peace and stability in our regions and all over the world.”

Oregon’s Swastika Mountain to be renamed
Fifty miles southeast of Eugene, Oregon, reaching an elevation of more than 4,000 feet, lies Swastika Mountain.

It’s unknown how many Jews have climbed it. But the unfortunate name, nearly a century old, will likely soon be replaced thanks to the efforts of a resident, JTA reported.

According to Willamette Week, Joyce McClain discovered the mountain’s existence last year and petitioned the volunteer-run Oregon Geographic Names Board to change it. At a meeting this month, the board said it would support a name change to Mount Halo, named after Chief Halito, who led the area’s Indigenous Yoncalla Kalapuya tribe in the 1800s. The name change is pending tribal approval.

The history of Swastika Mountain predates Nazi Germany. It was named after the now-defunct town of Swastika, which acquired its name because a local rancher used to brand his cattle with the symbol. Before the Nazis turned the swastika into a symbol of hate, it signified good fortune and well-being in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

Hundreds of reptiles, turtles caught in Ben-Gurion Airport smuggling attempt
Israel Police reported that three people were caught with numerous snakes, turtles, and other reptiles in the luggage when their flight from the Netherlands landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Aug. 29, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Israel Police said there was an undercover operation at the airport stemming from intelligence received by the Border Police.

The suspects are all in their 20s and are suspected of smuggling.

Yeshiva U. asks Supreme Court to weigh in on LGBT student club
Yeshiva University is asking the Supreme Court to block a New York court order mandating that the Orthodox Jewish university recognize an LGBT group as an official campus club, New York Jewish Week reported.

The emergency request comes after an appeals court rejected the school’s motion to delay a previous court order to recognize the YU Pride Alliance.

Both rulings were victories for the Pride Alliance and setbacks for the university, where administrators argue that having to recognize the LGBT student group would violate the First Amendment rights of the institution. Gay sex is forbidden by nearly all Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law, although attitudes toward individuals who identify as queer have eased somewhat in many Modern Orthodox settings in recent years.

“As a deeply religious Jewish university, Yeshiva cannot comply with that order because doing so would violate its sincere religious beliefs about how to form its undergraduate students in Torah values,” the school wrote in the court request.

The university’s request is to only block the immediate implementation of the club until another appeal of the decision is heard.

— Compiled by Andy Gotlieb

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