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Hindus Want to ´Reclaim´ Swastika


While Germany is pressing ahead with plans to ban Holocaust denial across the European Union, Buddhists and Hindus in Britain are starting a campaign to reclaim the swastika from its Nazi associations.

Hindu Forum spokesman Ramesh Kallidai said the swastika had been a Hindu good luck charm for centuries. "It's the second most sacred symbol in the Hindu tradition which has been used for 5,000 years to ward off evil," Kallidai said.

Arab Times: U.S. To Attack Iran in April


The U.S. Navy will strike oil and nuclear sites in Iran in April, the Kuwait-based Arab Times reported, basing its report on unidentified sources.

It said that Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently mapped out details for the attack. The planned pre-emptive action is to take place shortly before British Prime Minister Tony Blair leaves office.

The Arab Times report, by chief editor Ahmed al-Jarallah, also stated that Patriot missiles in Iraq would protect oil companies and American forces from an Iranian counter attack.

Rice, Olmert, Abbas to Hold Three-Way Summit Next Month

By Challiss McDonough (VOA-Cairo)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that she will attend a three-way summit next month with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The secretary said it has been six yeas since the two sides held such discussions, which she described as "informal" and designed to lay the groundwork for movement on the peace process.

After meeting in Luxor with Egyptian officials, including President Hosni Mubarak, the Secretary confirmed that she would meet with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders for talks aimed at re-energizing the Middle East peace process.

Rice said no date or location has been set for the meeting, but earlier a senior U.S. official said it would take place in the Middle East in three to four weeks. He said the participants would try to identify and understand the questions, opportunities and difficulties facing each side.

Rice is calling her trip to the Middle East a "listening tour." It is aimed at bolstering Abbas and also at seeking regional support for the Bush administration's new Iraq policy. But the trip comes at a particularly tense time in Washington's relations with its Arab allies, which have been strained over a variety of issues, including the execution of Saddam Hussein and U.S. military air strikes in Somalia.

Turning Shale and Asphalt into Oil


Ten years ago, Haifa-based company Hom Tov tried to interest investors in their revolutionary oil-producing technique which recycles oil shale, a flinty rock impregnated with hydrocarbon. At the time, the estimates that the process could produce oil costing $16 a barrel seemed too steep to justify the huge infrastructure costs.

Today, with prices over the $50 per barrel mark, interest in the technique has returned, and the company is forging ahead with developing a way to create affordable and environmentally-friendly fuel which could serve as a guide for other countries with oil shale deposits. The "Hom-Tov" process, brainchild of A.F.S.K. – Hom Tov CEO Yisrael Feldman, involves mixing the bitumen residue left over after refineries produce crude oil together with oil shale rock.

Refinery production leaves a minimum residue of 10 percent bitumen – also known as asphalt – per barrel of crude oil. The substance is used today only for road work or waterproofing materials because it requires too much additional processing to be used for conventional fuel, but is a key component in the "Hom Tov" process.

According to Hebrew University Professor Ze'ev Aizenshtat, an energy resource expert, the method also results in a dry fuel byproduct that can be used to power the "Hom Tov" production plant, as well as provide additional electricity for the national grid.

Feldman told ISRAEL21c that his method was first introduced in 1992 as a way to extract combustible organic material which could then be used to produce oil at a fraction of the current refinery cost. In 1994, then-Energy Minister Moshe Shahal ordered further investigation in the hope that researchers could come up with a way to produce quality oil at rock-bottom prices. Shahal's hopes were soon realized.

Backers of the project are now considering placing a production plant in the Negev, where oil shale is plentiful and has already been unearthed by phosphate plants that must dig past the rock in order to reach the lower minerals they seek.

The rock itself contains approximately 20 percent organic material and has been used as a direct fuel for more than a century in countries such as Brazil, China, Estonia and Russia.

The proposed Negev plant, depending on its size, would be able to produce up to 30 percent of Israel's energy needs for the next 70 years, at an initial construction cost of $700 million.

Ultimately, the plant could produce oil that would cost only $25 per barrel, half the cost of today's crude – a financial bonanza for the Haifa-based company. "We won't see that price for oil again," says Feldman.

There are other benefits that may ultimately be derived from the process as well. Aizenshtat said the "Hom Tov" method may be used in the future to recycle industrial refuse such as tires, plastics and manufacturers' waste from pesticide and fertilizer plants.

The price of the oil produced from refuse may be different, but the end result is the same – alternative fuel at a fraction of today's prices. "The world is looking for a replacement for oil supplies," observes Shahal, an attorney who now serves as the project's legal representative.

Court Approves Use of Fallen IDF Soldier's Sperm for Insemination

By Ha'aretz

In a precedent-setting move, the Ramat Gan Family Court approved the request of a family to allow the sperm of their slain son to be used for insemination.

The son, K., was killed by Palestinian sniper fire while serving in a selected infantry corps battalion of the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip in August 2002.

The sperm will be used to impregnate a woman who the soldier had never met. Judge Alisa Miller said that the decision was made in accordance with the parents' request, adding that it was an isolated ruling that would have no bearing on future decisions in similar cases. "The ruling resolves the present incident but does not affect other incidents," she said.

The petition for use of the soldier's sperm was submitted to the court on behalf of the family by attorney Irit Rosenblum. According to the petition, the soldier had discussed with his family his desire to start a family. After his death, a sample of his sperm was preserved at the Sheba Medical Center and his mother established contact with women interested in using his sperm for impregnation.

Some 40 women responded to the soldier's mother's call, and one woman was chosen to carry the sperm. The soldier's parents and the potential mother asked the hospital to carry out the insemination.

The hospital, at the instruction of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, refused to grant the parents' request without court approval.

The family wrote in its petition that it would have been the wish of their dead son to use his sperm to impregnate the woman and said that it was their right as potential grandparents to carry out the insemination. They promised that they would keep to their role as grandparents and would not interfere in the life of the child.

The request was approved despite a ruling made three years ago, according to which the parents of the dead have no standing rights in these sorts of issues.

This is the first time a court has approved the use of a deceased man's sperm for the insemination of a woman he had never met. This is also the first time the court has approved a sperm donation in which the donor and the recipient did not know each other, yet the donor's identity was not concealed.

The court had in the past approved the request of a woman to use her dead partner's sperm for her own impregnation.

Imam Accused of Sexually Harassing 3 Boys


A 57-year-old imam (Muslim cleric) who is a resident of a village in northern Jerusalem was arrested on Monday under suspicion of performing indecent assault and attempted rape of three 15-year-old boys who are residents of east Jerusalem.

The complaint leading to the arrest of the imam was filed on Saturday by one of the boys. Following the filing of the complaint an investigation was opened against the imam and on Sunday the cleric was apprehended by Jerusalem police detectives who had his arrest extended on Monday, for four days in the Jerusalem magistrate court.

The cleric is suspected of committing indecent assault on the boys for the past few months. He supposedly committed the assault on two of the boys in his car while he was giving them a lift. The third boy was allegedly harassed inside a mosque. The suspect has denied the allegations and claimed that the three boys had come to him asking to study the Quran.

During his hearing it was revealed that during his last assault, the subject was attacked by a number of residents from the village who saw him committing the indecent deeds on a boy and beat him. The police investigation will continue in order to determine if indecent assault was forced on any other boys.

Study: Jerusalem Twice as Poor


A new study conducted by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem's Dr. Johnny Gal and Tel Aviv University's Idit Weiss for the Institute for Jerusalem Studies revealed that in the past six years, the poverty levels in Jerusalem have increased by 40 percent.

The study further showed that amongst the ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations, the poverty rate has reached 70 percent. In 1999, the rate of poor families in Jerusalem came to 26 percent whereas about two years ago the rate had risen to 33 percent.

Every second child in Jerusalem is defined as poor, as opposed to every third child in the rest of the country. Only 44 percent of Jerusalem's residents who are capable of joining the workforce are employed, as opposed to 54 percent in the rest of Israel.

Those who are employed in Jerusalem also make less money. Last year, the average salary in Jerusalem was NIS 5,940 (about $1,400) as opposed to 7,287 (about $1,700) in Tel Aviv.

Temple Aqueduct and Ritual Bath Excavated Opposite Temple Mount


Excavations being conducted opposite the Western Wall Plaza have uncovered an aqueduct that brought water to the Holy Temple, as well as a ritual bath from that period.

The never-before-excavated area is situated behind the Western Wall police station, adjacent to the plaza where millions of worshipers and tourists come each year to visit the Western Wall and Temple Mount.

The new archaeological find uncovers a missing link in the ancient water system, known as the "Lower Aqueduct" which channeled water from Solomon's Pools near Bethlehem (located miles south of Jerusalem) directly to the national focal point of Jewish worship - the Temple Mount.

Solomon's pools situated just north of the modern Jewish town of Efrat, covers an area of about 7 acres and are capable of containing three million gallons of water. A lengthy aqueduct conveyed the water from the lowest pool through Bethlehem, across the Gihon valley, along the western slope of the Tyropoeon valley, and into the cisterns underneath the Temple Mount. Today, the water from the pools reaches only Bethlehem due to the destruction of the aqueducts.

Current plans for the partition wall will leave Solomon's Pools outside the area of Jewish sovereignty.

The plastered hewn-stone mikva (ritual bath) unearthed at the excavation is from the Second Temple period. It was originally situated in the foundation level of a private home during the time of the Second Temple. The ritual bath was damaged at a later date when the bedrock cliff opposite it was hewn into a vertical wall that rose up to a maximum height of about 30 feet.

The most extensive remains are those of a Roman-Byzantine colonnaded street – the Eastern Cardo. Included in that area is a covered stoa, a row of shops and several artifacts.

The street appears on a 6th century map known as the Medaba Map and is known as the Eastern Cardo or the Valley Cardo. The lavish colonnaded street began at the Damascus Gate in the north and led south, running the length of the channel in the Tyropoeon Valley. Sections of this street were revealed in the past in the northern part of the Old City, at a depth of about four meters (12 feet) below the pavement. The full 11-meter (33 foot) width of the original road was exposed in the present excavation for the first time.

"The street was paved with large flagstones that were set in place diagonally, in the customary method of the Roman world, which was probably meant to prevent wagons from slipping," Shlomit Wexler-Bdolah, the director of the excavations explained. She added that a drainage system was installed below the flagstones.

To the west of the street was a covered stoa that was six meters wide, and beyond it was a row of shops set inside cells whose walls were hewn out of the bedrock cliff. A large base of a magnificent corner column has just been exposed in the eastern side of the street and may be part of a building that stood there, or an intersection with an entrance to the road that runs to the east.

The Antiquities Authority is carrying out the excavations of the 80 by 200 foot area west of the Western Wall at the request of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. The area will soon be the site of the Western Wall Heritage Center.

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