Was an Offer Made?
Ariel Sharon denied that his office sought Israeli settlers' agreement to dismantle some illegal West Bank outposts. The denial by Israel's prime minister came after a spokesman for a settlers' group said the group had rejected the offer. Sharon is planning to dismantle some settlements as part of a plan to disengage from the Palestinians if peace negotiations do not resume.
Israel Kills Five Terrorists
Israeli soldiers hunting mortar crews in the Gaza Strip killed five terrorists and four bystanders. Witnesses said an armored column set out from the Netzarim army base before dawn Wednesday and came under fire from Palestinian gunmen as it approached the outskirts of Gaza City. The five gunmen killed are believed to have been members of Islamic Jihad. Four other Palestinians, including three laborers en route to work, died in the shootout. The army said the operation was aimed at intercepting terrorists who fire mortars at Jewish settlements.
Study: Jerusalem Residents Poor
Jerusalem is the poorest of Israel's large cities, according to a new survey. Tel Aviv ranked high on the list of cities ranked by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, as did Haifa and Rishon le-Zion. Per-capita income, the unemployment rate and the number of residents who receive welfare were among the factors used in the rankings.
Israeli Twin Towers Scare
Tel Aviv's "Twin Towers" were partially evacuated in a bomb scare. Police ordered shoppers out of the mall in the Azrieli Towers on Wednesday after discovering a bomb in the underground parking lot. The bomb was safely detonated. There have been several alerts of terrorist plots against the Azrieli Towers modeled on the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
France Beefs up Jewish Security
France will provide more than $18 million to beef up security at Jewish institutions. Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin announced the package at the second meeting of the newly created Cabinet committee on anti-Semitism on Tuesday.
"The situation justifies the continued vigilance and the action of public authorities," Raffarin said.
Italy to Probe Anti-Semitism
Italy soon will have a government committee to investigate and fight anti-Semitism and racism. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced the move this week, saying there was "profound concern about the rise of episodes of intolerance and anti-Semitism in Europe." The committee, which will begin operation in coming weeks, will be composed of representatives of several government ministries. Its task will be to monitor episodes of racism, anti-Semitism and religious intolerance and determine how to educate people against such attitudes and punish acts when they occur. Italy has experienced little of the anti-Semitic violence that has erupted in several other European countries since the start of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000. But recent public-opinion polls have indicated widespread anti-Semitic stereotypes as well as sharp opposition to Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.
Poll: Americans Oppose Palestinian Aid
Seventy-three percent of Americans oppose U.S. aid to the Palestinians, according to a new poll. Only 15 percent supported the roughly $200 million in annual aid, the poll reported. Sixty-five percent of respondents to the poll, sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America, said the Palestinian Authority could not be trusted to fulfill peace accords it signs with Israel, while 18 percent of the 1,000 Americans polled said the Palestinian Authority could be trusted. The poll was conducted in mid-January, and no margin of error was given.
Victims of Nazi Medical Experiments Compensated
Starting this week, 1,778 victims of Nazi medical experiments will get one-time compensation payments from Germany. The Claims Conference identified the victims who, under an agreement with the German government, will receive payments of about $5,400 each. Under Nazi rule, German doctors and scientists conducted experiments on Jews including sterilization, amputation of limbs, organ removal, infusion of infectious diseases, immersion in ice water and the infamous experiments on twins. Most experiments tested how much pain, torture or disease human beings could endure before dying, so the vast majority of experiment subjects were killed.
"For survivors, it is a day of muted triumph," said Roman Kent, chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, at the news conference in New York announcing the awards.
New York OKs Insurance Bill
The New York state Assembly passed a bill banning insurance companies from denying life insurance to travelers to Israel. The assembly unanimously approved the bill prohibiting insurers from asking life insurance applicants if they have visited Israel or other counties on a State Department travel advisory list. JTA recently revealed that some insurers were denying such coverage based on past or even future travel plans to Israel because of the U.S. advisory. The state Senate must pass the bill before it becomes law.
'Fiddler' Tradition Begins Anew
A revival of "Fiddler on the Roof" opened on Broadway last Friday. The revival of the musical about life in a shtetl first opened in 1964. Alfred Molina stars as Tevye, the role popularized by Zero Mostel in the original.
Matzah-Ball King Keeps Crown
There was a repeat winner in an annual matzah-ball eating contest in New York. Eric "Badlands" Booker won Tuesday's contest at Ben's Deli by scarfing more than 20 matzah balls in five minutes, 25 seconds. Booker is 6-feet-5-inches tall and weighs 395 pounds. Proceeds from the event go to feed the hungry through the Interfaith Nutrition Network. More information about the contest is available at www.bensdeli.net.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.