June 16, 2005
Rabbis Against Reserves
Fifty Israeli rabbis opposed to the planned Gaza Strip pullout called on army reservists not to turn up for duty.
"The criminal expulsion mission, which the Israeli government has imposed on the army, makes any service in aid of this crime a serious sin," the rabbis, most of whom are West Bank and Gaza Strip settlers, said in an edict published during the weekend before Shavuot. Israel plans to enlist thousands of reservists to replace conscripts to conduct the evacuation of Gaza's 21 settlements and another four from the West Bank beginning in August. Sounding a contrary opinion, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu last week called for Israeli troops to obey the evacuation orders.
Settlers Sue Soldiers
Anti-pullout activists sued two Israeli army commanders over the evacuation of an illegal West Bank settler outpost. In an unprecedented move, the activists traveled to the homes of deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinski and Samaria's commander, Col. Yuval Bazak, last week to serve them with a civil suit demanding $70,000 in damages. Israeli media reports on Sunday said that the suit rejected by the officers accused them of wantonly destroying the Givat Shalhevet outpost outside Nablus in January. The incident highlighted fears that opponents of the Gaza withdrawal could personally attack Israeli officials. Also, two settlers were detained after a struggle on Friday at the Tapuah checkpoint in which the pair fought with soldiers who had ordered them to stop putting up anti-pullout banners on security barriers, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Disarmament Demand Flouted
A Palestinian Authority minister said terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza will not be disarmed before Israel withdraws.
"The disarming of armed factions is not on the table because weapons are legal as long as the occupation exists," Nasser al-Kidwa said in a Palestinian television interview, according to a transcript released Saturday. "Possession of weapons is a strategic issue as long as there is occupation."
Israel condemned the declaration as flouting a demand in the U.S.-led peace "road map" for terrorist groups to be disarmed and dismantled as a prerequisite for talks on Palestinian statehood.
"We should make clear that there will be no talks on a Palestinian state unless the terrorists are disarmed," Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim told Israel Radio on Sunday.
Ukraine, Jews Discuss Restitution
Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko met with Jewish groups to explore setting up a process for the restitution of Jewish communal properties confiscated during the Soviet era. A formal process, either via a commission or law, will speed the return of properties more than case-by-case discussions, said Mark Levin, executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia. During the meeting last Friday, which included the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine and Josef Zissels, head of the Va'ad of Ukraine, an umbrella group, Yuschenko reiterated his call for support in getting the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Agreement by the U.S. Congress lifted. The Jewish groups voiced a willingness to help Ukraine "graduate" from the agreement, which links trade restrictions to Ukraine's treatment of Jews, once progress is made on restitution.
Fridman Gets Medal Back
An Israeli Olympic champion retrieved his stolen gold medal. Gal Fridman, a windsurfer who triumphed at the 2004 Athens Games, had his medal stolen from his parents' home last week. He was told by police Saturday that the medal had been found in a forest in central Israel. He told Israeli media that the culprit probably decided to abandon the medal after realizing they could not sell it, given the public outcry over its theft. There was no sign of the rest of the booty from the burglary, including jewelry belonging to Fridman's mother and a handgun belonging to his father.
'Sir Jonathan' Leads UK Jewry
Queen Elizabeth, marking her 79th birthday, bestowed the vaunted "Sir" title on Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Britain's chief rabbi, on Saturday in recognition of his services to the Jewish community and interfaith relations.
"This is an honor not just for me but for the Jewish community and its contributions to British life, as well as for the continuing inspiration of Jewish teachings," Sacks, who has served as chief rabbi since 1991, said in a statement. "I hope it encourages further progress in good relations between the faiths."
Also knighted was Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Orthodox Site Becomes Orange
A Chabad-Lubavitch news site has adopted an orange color scheme to protest the Israeli government's Gaza withdrawal plan.
"I'm sitting here in Brooklyn, N.Y.," Shmais.com's CEO and founder, Levi Hodakov, told JTA, "and I'm really feeling for the Jews in Gaza here."
Hodakov said the initiative aims to send a message to his readers to oppose the withdrawal and to inspire them to pray and learn on the Gaza Jews' behalf.
"Every little bit counts," he said.
Beatification of Priest Delayed
The beatification of a French priest has been postponed due to concerns over his anti-Semitic writings. The beatification of Leon Dehon was signed off on by the late Pope John Paul II, but his successor, Benedict XVI, is having Dehon's file re-examined. Dehon, who died in 1925, was the founder of the order of priests of Sacre C'ur. Among Dehon's anti-Semitic statements: Jews should wear a "special garment" identifying them as Jews and be "consigned to the ghettos." According to Dehon, "anti-Semitism is a sign of hope." French historian Jean-Dominique Durand alerted the French episcopate to the writings in February. The interruption of a beatification is extremely rare; halting the process for Dehon at this stage might be unique in Catholic history, because once a candidate's "miracles" have been recognized, only the death of a pope can stop the process.
Tree Grows After 2,000 Years
Using a seed found in the Masada fortress, Israeli scientists have sprouted an ancient date palm tree. The date palm, which is praised in Jewish and Islamic writing, once grew throughout Israel but disappeared over the centuries. The date palms in modern Israeli agriculture are descendants of a different line of trees from other parts of the Mideast. Dr. Elaine Solowey, of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, grew the plant, which a New York Times article says dates back approximately 1,990 years, according to DNA testing.