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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                     April 5, 1995, V3, #62
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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State Department Envoy Ross Arrives Thursday

By Ron Pemstein (State Department)

The United States is sending the State Department's leading Middle East envoy to Israel and Syria to try to advance the negotiations over the Golan Heights. Secretary of State Warren Christopher says Special Envoy Dennis Ross leaves Washington today to discuss security arrangements for a potential Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

Christopher told an Anti-Defamation League meeting here in Washington that Ross will lay a stronger basis for the two sides to discuss those security arrangements during his talks in Israel and Syria. Under the scenario laid out by Christopher during his last Middle East trip, military chiefs of staff will join the talks the ambassadors of Syria and Israel have been holding here.

Christopher says this is the critical year for peace between Israel and Syria. "In my judgment, with courage and bold leadership, those gaps can be bridged and they ought to be bridged in the near future because, as I have told both parties, 1995 is the critical year."

Christopher says the electoral clock in both Israel and the United States is ticking and the parties should accelerate their talks.

Arabs and Israelis Worry About July 1 Deadline

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

The top Israeli and Palestinian leaders say intensive negotiations are proceeding toward meeting their July 1 deadline for agreement on the next phase of Palestinian autonomy. But at a rare face-to-face public debate on the peace process this week, senior Israeli and Palestinian officials admitted the talks are in serious trouble over the key issues of security and Israeli troop withdrawals.

The evening of debate at a building in Jerusalem where many foreign news organizations have their offices began with doubts about whether the Palestinian minister would actually come into the Jewish part of town, and with police physically removing a radical Jewish activist from the auditorium.

But once the program got started, the approximately 100 people on hand there had the rare opportunity to hear Israeli and Palestinian ministers offer their views back-to-back. The message from Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabo was pessimistic.

"I believe that the peace process has reached a real crisis. And I believe that the negotiations are going nowhere. This is a very serious moment. This has created an atmosphere among the Palestinian people which is growing more and more, I cannot say against the peace process, but a lack of confidence and credibility toward the peace process."

Israel's Health Minister Ephraim Sneh, who favors progress toward more Palestinian autonomy, and even sovereignty, also expressed doubts about the outcome of the current talks. "There is an atmosphere which prevails here also of stagnation, nothing goes on. And we have to be very creative and to think what more can be done."

Those pessimistic views of the peace process came as a surprise in view of the new energy which seemed to be injected into the peace talks a month ago. That was when the top Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to intensify talks and to set a July 1 deadline for reaching agreement on expanding Palestinian autonomy.

But Sneh says the effort to implement the peace accord reached in Oslo is wrongheaded, because things have happened in the last 18 months that make it impossible.

"There is no chance that a few of the items of the Oslo agreement can be implemented in the situation as it is right now. There is no chance that Israel can redeploy its forces in the way and in the pace that was mentioned in Oslo. Why? Because the terrorism of those who oppose the peace is in such an extent that from our point of view, it can't be done. Maybe we shouldn't adhere to the old formula and we have to invent a new one."

Sneh says peace is still possible-- and it might even be possible -- to move faster than planned in some areas. But he says it is not possible to remove Israeli troops from West Bank cities at this stage, as promised, because of the threat of terrorism.

Abed Rabo responded by saying that scrapping the Oslo agreement is a bad idea and would lead to the breakdown of the entire process. "There are basic issues. Let us discuss them in accordance with the agreement, because I don't think there will be a better version than the agreement we have reached because this is the result of negotiations. We have exhausted ourselves as two sides, not only through negotiations but through conflict, in order to reach this minimum, this window, this opening of a door between us. Let's keep it."

Abed Rabo says neither Israeli troops nor Palestinian police can provide security unless their efforts are augmented by an improved economic situation in Palestinian areas and by what he calls a new political atmosphere to satisfy the desires of the Palestinian people. He says real security can only come through Palestinian political autonomy as envisioned in the Oslo accord and equitable economic arrangements between the autonomous areas and Israel.

Abed Rabo says the current talks are stagnated and the July 1 deadline is at risk. He says that amounts to a crisis, because if July 1 passes without an agreement the peace process will have no more credibility among the Palestinian people. Sneh does not use the word "crisis," but he says the process is in a very, very complex difficulty.

What may worry people on both sides is that the two men have opposite views of how to solve the problem -- the Palestinian by forging ahead with the Oslo process, the Israeli by moving in a new, as yet undefined, direction.

Ruins of Roman Villa Unearthed on Mount Zion, Jerusalem

A rare floor mosaic with the image of the Roman Earth Goddess, Gaya, was unearthed by chance when a wall of the Petros Gallicanto monastery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem recently collapsed. The Antiquities Authority people were summoned and identified it as part of the ruins of a Roman villa. The mosaic has been transferred for preservation and reconstruction in its laboratories. Researchers think the image of the goddess is very rare in this region; so far, such mosaics have been found only in Jordan.

Columbus Women will Hold 'Mock' Seder

By Don Canaan

Passover, the Jewish holiday celebrating the freeing of Hebrew slaves in Egypt by Moses, will assume additional meaning Thursday when a mock Seder specifically designed for women will be held in Columbus.

Elaine Tenenbaum, director of the Woman's Division of the Columbus Jewish Federation, said the traditional Seder -- a meal and ritual that also commemorates the Exodus 3,300 to 3,500 years ago to the Land of Canaan -- is usually is held in homes on Passover eve, the first day of the eight day Passover holiday. This year, Passover will be celebrated April 14.

The women's Seder "is not meant to replace the traditional family observance," Tenenbaum said. "It is held before Passover to commemorate women whose...accomplishments have been attributed to others." During a traditional Seder, Jews read from the Haggadah, a book containing a narrative of Exodus and the Seder ritual.

"A committee of women from constituencies within Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jewry examined various Haggadahs, but found none that included the issues they wanted to raise.

"We're using the women of the exodus as a jumping off point in which to tell their story," Tenenbaum said. She refers to Thursday's Seder as a "mock" Seder, so as not to compare it with the first Seder next week.

Tenenbaum equates the mock seder to "studying," which she says is religiously permissible for women in Orthodox Judaism. "If a group of women are studying, men are not supposed to be present."

Many Orthodox congregations forbid men from praying in the same location as women. Therefore, these synagogues delegate women to another section of the building separate from where men pray.

During four parts of the Seder participants drink glasses of wine to praise God for saving the Jews during the Exodus.

The four glasses of wine remain in the Columbus Seder, but commemorate the women of the Exodus, Jewish women in history, contemporary women such as the late Ohio astronaut Judith Resnick and former Congresswoman Bella Abzug, and women who remain unknown.

Tradition holds that the prophet Elijah visits each Seder and drinks from a goblet of wine left for him. Tenenbaum said Miriam's Bowl will be placed next to Elijah's cup at the vegetarian food celebration.

When a women's Seder is held, she added, the biblical Miriam also visits every house. The bowl of water, which honors Miriam as a prophet, will be passed around and prayers will be said. The water symbolizes the water that allowed the Jews to survive while wandering for 40 years in the desert.

"What's unique about our Seder is that 325 women have already registered to attend," she said.

The Columbus Jewish Federation and the Women's Division hope the Seder event will "outreach" to all women and provide a shared ritual experience enabling women to promote Jewish values and ideas.

The women will follow the traditional order of the Seder, Tenenbaum said, but also "will read about Jewish female characters from the Exodus, from within Jewish history and in contemporary society."

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