January 24, 2008
Briefs: They’re Jews first and Israelis second; Pope to soap offending trope
Israelis Identify by Faith, Then Flag
Israelis are three times more likely to identify primarily as Jews than as Israelis, a poll found. According to a survey in Monday's Yediot Achronot, 40 percent of Israelis said they identify "first and foremost" as Jews, while 13 percent identify primarily as Israelis. Most Israelis, 45 percent, identified primarily as human beings, with the rest undecided on how to identify themselves. The poll had 500 respondents and a 4.2 percent margin of error. It was not clear if the respondents represented a cross-section of Israel's entire population, 20 percent of whom are Arabs, or just the Jewish majority.
Stars to Celebrate Israel's Birthday
Barbra Streisand and Steven Spielberg are among Jewish celebrities expected to attend Israel's 60th Independence Day events. The famed musical diva and Hollywood director are among those invited to a May 13 conference in Jerusalem being organized by Israeli President Shimon Peres in honor of the Jewish state's 60th birthday, Ma'ariv reported Monday. Streisand will entertain by singing "Avinu Malkeinu," a Peres favorite. Among foreign statesmen expected to attend the events are President Bush and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy.
Canada Removes Israel, U.S. From Watch List
Canada removed Israel and the United States from a list of countries suspected of using torture. Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier said Saturday that an internal government torture watch list naming Israel and the United States had been amended to omit them. Bernier noted that Israel and the United States are among Canada's "closest allies." The watch list, which had been compiled as part of training for Canadian diplomats, was accidentally leaked to the press. It mentioned methods known widely as "torture light" -- sleep deprivation, forced nudity, isolation and blindfolding. Human rights groups denounced Bernier's turnabout, saying designation states that sanction torture should not depend on whether they are political allies. Israel and the United States admit that their security services use vigorous interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists but deny this amounts to torture.
Israeli Spy Satellite Launched
After months of delays, the TECSAR satellite was launched into space Monday from a site in India. The TECSAR features an all-weather, day-or-night radar imaging system that will significantly improve Israel's ability to monitor Iran and other Middle East foes. Two Israeli-made Ofek satellites, with conventional optical camera, already are in orbit. Israel is among a handful of countries that manufactures and deploys its own satellites.
Olmert Praises Aid to Sderot
Aid extended to Sderot by the Israeli military has improved conditions for the rocket-rattled town, Ehud Olmert said. The Israeli prime minister, who made an unannounced visit to Sderot last Thursday after the military's Southern Command was ordered to deploy personnel in the town to reinforce buildings against rocket salvos from the nearby Gaza Strip and help with routine affairs, said the measure has shown some success.
"I found a different atmosphere both in Sderot and its outlying communities. I found impressive determination, fortitude, fewer complaints but not less pain and concern, and great appreciation for the activity being carried on there," Olmert told his Cabinet in broadcast remarks Sunday.
Last week saw a surge in rocket fire by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups as Israeli forces pressed attacks in Gaza. The Jewish Agency for Israel announced Sunday it has begun providing emergency relief grants of around $1,000 for Sderot residents who are injured, or whose homes are damaged, by rockets. A total of $300,000 was last month earmarked for Sderot out of the Jewish Agency's Victims of Terror Fund, which is underwritten by the United Jewish Communities and Keren Hayesod.
Pope to Change Liturgy Offensive to Jews
Pope Benedict XVI reportedly has decided to change part of the Good Friday liturgy that is offensive to Jews. The decision was reported by Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican expert of the Italian daily "Il Giornale." The change would affect the Missal of 1962, which the pope brought back into use. The prayer is not used in most churches, but certain congregations continue to use the old rite on Good Friday.
The prayer, which refers to the blindness of the Jews in refusing Jesus as the messiah, is part of a series of prayers for non-Christians. The prayer reads: "Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, you do not refuse your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness."
A reference to "perfidious Jews" was dropped in 1959. When Pope Benedict brought back the prayer, the chief rabbis of Israel expressed concern, as did the ADL.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.