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>JN June 13, 2000, Volume 8, No. 100

Average Wage Lower in Jerusalem Than Other Cities

By IsraelWire

The average wage in Jerusalem is lower than the average wage in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheva. According to statistics published by the National Insurance, the average wage in Jerusalem in 1999 was NIS 6,753 ($1608), in Beersheva NIS 7,230 ($1721), in Tel Aviv NIS 7,786 ($1854), and in Haifa NIS 8,527 ($2030).

Assad's Funeral Today

By Lisa Bryant (VOA-Cairo)

Syrian officials are completing arrangements for today's funeral for President Hafez al-Assad, who died Saturday at age 69. Thousands of Syrians have arrived in the capital, Damascus, to bid farewell to their long-term leader.

The growing list of dignitaries expected to attend the funeral of Assad includes leaders from France, Egypt, Jordan, and Iran. Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, who maintained rocky relations with the late Syrian president, is also expected to delay a Washington meeting to attend.

But so far, the guest list for Assad's funeral is considerably less impressive than those for two of his counterparts -- King Hussein of Jordan, and King Hassan of Morocco, who both died last year. Leaders from the United States and several European countries are sending their foreign ministers to attend the proceedings. Others are sending heads of parliament.

Local news reports say Assad's body will be carried from his home in Damascus early Tuesday to Umayyad Square, in the center of the capital. There, hundreds of thousands of Syrians are expected to bid a so-called popular farewell to their president. Assad will likely be buried alongside his son, Basil, who died in a car crash in 1994.

Meanwhile, Syrian officials have moved swiftly to consolidate the position of Assad's other son, Bashar, as the country's next leader. During the past two days, 34-year-old Bashar Assad has been nominated for president by the Baath Party leadership, and promoted to head of Syria's armed forces.

But Arab analysts and foreign officials have expressed doubts about whether the leadership transition from father to son will be a smooth one. Some speculate there may be a struggle ahead against Syria's old guard, who may be opposed to a hereditary succession.

Others say the younger Assad will also have to win support from Syria's minority Alawite sect, and from rivals within the larger Assad family. Many experts say they are waiting to see how the political dust settles.

Israeli Outlook on Assad's Death

By Meredith Buel (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli analysts predict a relatively smooth transition of power in Syria, but say it is not yet clear if Bashar al-Assad, the son of the late President Hafez al-Assad, will be able to hold onto the power he is inheriting from his father. Analysts also express cautious optimism that the new government in Damascus will be more flexible during negotiations on the Middle East peace process.

Israeli analysts say there is virtually no doubt Bashar al-Assad will follow in his late father's footsteps and become the new president of Syria. They point out the 34-year-old Bashar is more modern in style and more western in thought than his father, who ruled Syria with an iron hand for 30-years.

King Abdullah of Jordan says he and Bashar al-Assad represent a new generation of Arab leaders who are part of the "Internet generation."

Tel Aviv University professor Eyal Zisser, who is considered an expert on Syria, says Bashar al-Assad must not only inherit his father's power, but also his "killer instinct" to crush any opposition.

"It is not enough to know the Internet. You need to show that you are strong, that you are a leader, and you need to crush in the first moment any signs of opposition, resentment, or independence. If -- and this is the problem -- if he is proven to be a weak leader, if he will show the first sign of weakness, this will be his end."

Prime Minister Ehud Barak says the death of President Assad marks the end of an era, and Israel now faces a new Middle East. Barak says Israel will continue to work for a peace agreement with the new leadership in Damascus.

Syria maintains 35,000 troops in Lebanon and is considered the main power broker in that country. Analyst Yossi Olmert says a critical question is whether Bashar al-Assad can control terrorist groups, like Hizbullah, which in the past have fought against Israel.

President Hafez al-Assad died on the exact anniversary of the date Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Middle East war.

Viagra Effective with Flowers, Fruits and Vegetables

By IsraelWire

The potency drug Viagra has been found to be effective prolonging the shelf-life of flowers in vases, and of fruits and vegetables such as bananas and cucumbers. Joint research by scientists at Bar Ilan University in Israel, the University of Australia and a technological corporation, Sun Blush, demonstrated this phenomenon, based on the emanation of nitric oxide from the medication, its central component.

In plants with identical enzyme systems as in humans, a sharp result was perceived. The London newspaper "The Financial Times" reports the method may soon reach the shelves of plant stores.

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