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>Israel Faxx
>JN March 17, 1999, Vol. 7, No. 53

Declaring the Hebrew Month of Nissan

By IsraelWire

At 4 p.m. today, the new Hebrew month of Nissan will be declared in accordance with ancient biblical practice. The declaration will take place at the Hulda Gate to the Temple Mount of Jerusalem's Old City. In the reenactment of the ancient practice in which the new moon was announced every month, the shofar (ram's horn) will be sounded and the appropriate prayers will be recited.

Egyptian Bedouin Ask For Asylum

By Deborah Tate (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's Supreme Court has ruled hundreds of Egyptian bedouins who crossed the border into the Negev Monday may remain, pending a court hearing on their request for asylum. Israeli authorities had wanted to forcibly return the bedouins.

When 600 members of the bedouin Al-Azazmeh tribe entered Israel's Negev Desert from Egypt's Sinai to escape a tribal feud, it caused diplomatic headaches for Israel -- which has been at peace with Egypt for two decades.

Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon expressed concern about the precedent it might set, saying no country in the world would allow people to suddenly cross its border and settle there. "It is a very serious problem. What had to be done, even yesterday, is just to send them back [to] the place from which they came."

But Egypt's Ambassador to Israel, Mohammad Bassiouny, played down prospects of a diplomatic rift. "This is not between the Egyptian government and the Israeli government. It is probably between the bedouins and themselves. So I do not think it will affect relations between the two countries."

The situation is a problem for regional officials in the Negev, who argue they do not have the means to care for the bedouin. They ordered the army to send the men, women, and children back to Egypt.

But Israel's high court -- acting on a petition filed by an Israeli member of the tribe -- ordered authorities to stay any attempt to send the bedouins home until a court hearing next week. Until then, the Israeli army is providing the bedouins with food, water and medical supplies.

Israel occupied the Sinai from 1967 until 1982. The Al-Azazmeh tribe has members on both sides of the border.

West Bank Village Joins the Internet

By Deborah Tate (VOA-Jerusalem)

A remote Palestinian village on the West Bank is now connected to the Internet through a unique new solar energy project. It is the start of a new day at the school in Arab Al-Ka'abneh -- a village about 24 miles southeast of Hebron.

It promises to be a day that will change the lives of village residents forever. Al-Ka'abneh, home to 2,000 people, has few basic services. But it is about to become connected to the global information superhighway, the Internet computer network.

A US based non-profit group, Greenstar, which promotes solar power in developing nations, is making the project possible, with help from the US Energy Department. Greenstar Director Michael North says residents of the village are the kind of people who can benefit most from his project.

"They do  not  have electricity, they do  not  have cell phones,
they do  not  have running water, they do not  have basic medical
care.  Their education is  not world class.  It is  not  connected
to the world economy.  They have  no  way of communicating with
people around the world.  So the point of Greenstar is to find a
way that such communities can come into the 21st century quickly."

With cooperation from the village council, Greenstar installed a computer system operated by solar power. One teacher was so taken by the new solar project he was heard to exclaim, "Some people have reached the moon. We have reached the sun."

Besides the computer, Greenstar has also installed a vaccine cooler, a water purifier, a television, and copy machine in the village -- all of which run on energy generated from solar panels.

US Visitors Banned from Old City and Golan Heights

By IsraelWire

The United States government instructed visitors attending an event at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies they may not visit the "occupied areas" of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

According to a report appearing in Haaretz, the retired American generals and researchers wished to visit those areas but were told they were off limits.

According to Haaretz, a US Embassy official acknowledged the ban but quickly added it did not originate in the embassy. The embassy added that since 1967, a ban has been in place, which prohibits US officials from traveling to "occupied areas" in the accompaniment of Israeli officials. Hence, the cancellation of a planned visit to the Western Wall by President Clinton once Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert insisted that he accompany Clinton.

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