King, Abbas ink deal
King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed a deal on Sunday confirming the nation’s historic role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, the palace said. The two sides stressed their “common goal to defending” Jerusalem and its sacred sites. “In this historic agreement, Abbas reiterated that the king is the custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem and that he has the right to exert all legal efforts to preserve them, especially Al-Aqsa mosque,” the palace said in a statement. “It is also emphasizing the historical principles agreed by Jordan and Palestine to exert joint efforts to protect the city and holy sites from Israeli Judaization attempts.” Al-Aqsa compound is Islam’s third holiest site and houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques. It is also Judaism’s most sacred place of worship, venerated by Jews as Temple Mount, the site where King Herod’s temple stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Tycoon’s friend speaks out
The 23-year-old girlfriend of oligarch Boris Berezovsky yesterday said she did not believe he had killed himself and that they had been planning to go to Israel on holiday together days after he was found dead. In an interview with liberal weekly New Times, Katerina Sabirova said she did not believe Berezovsky, 67, would have killed himself, and that in their last conversation a day before his death, his voice “had sounded better than usual.” Berezovsky, 67, was found on March 23 in the bathroom of a mansion outside London and a postmortem found that he had been hanged and no evidence of a struggle. “He was definitely planning to come to Israel on Monday [March 25]. I know that for sure,” she told the magazine and gave them a printout of her air ticket to Tel Aviv. He had proposed the trip on March 18 because her British visa had run out, she said.
Sondheim wins arts award
Composer Stephen Sondheim has won one of the top honors in the arts world, the Edward MacDowell Medal for lifetime achievement. The MacDowell Colony, the artist residency program, announced on Sunday that Sondheim has received an award that has been given to Robert Frost and Georgia O’Keeffe, among others. The 83-year-old Sondheim is known for such classic musicals as A Little Night Music and Into the Woods. He will accept the medal at an August ceremony.
Pattycake dies at 40
Pattycake, the first gorilla born in New York City, has died at the Bronx Zoo. She was 40 years old. The Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the zoo, made the announcement on Sunday. Pattycake was born at the Central Park Zoo on Sept. 3, 1972, and lived there with her parents Kongo and Lulu until 1983, when she went to live in the Bronx. She was “an institution in New York City,” Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny said. Pattycake had 10 infants, including two twins born in 1995. She was the 31st oldest gorilla of 338 living in North American zoos.