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Israel Observes Holocaust Memorial Amid Row with Vatican

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli officials, Holocaust survivors and foreign dignitaries gathered at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem Sunday evening as Israel remembered one of the darkest chapters in Jewish history.

Flags were lowered to half staff across the country. Six torches were lit in memory of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave the keynote address. He said Israel rising from the ashes of the Holocaust is the pinnacle of Jewish victory.

But the ceremony was overshadowed by a public dispute between Israel and the Vatican over the role of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust. The Vatican's ambassador to Israel, Antonio Franco, threatened to boycott the observance because of a controversial picture of the wartime pope, Pius XII, in the Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem. The caption says the pope turned a blind eye to the Nazi genocide, and the Vatican wants it removed.

Yad Vashem said it would consider changing the caption if the Vatican opens its wartime archives. British historian Martin Gilbert agrees. "Until we can see what the pope was actually communicating from Rome to the cardinals in France, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia and so on, all over the world, we won't know," said Gilbert. "We may find that he was the most vicious anti-Semite. We may find that he was the most righteous of the righteous."

Yad Vashem expressed "shock and disappointment" at the Vatican envoy's planned boycott, but in a goodwill gesture, it said it was prepared to consider the Church's objections. The envoy, in turn, agreed to attend the ceremony.

Olmert Meets with Holocaust Denier

By VOA News & Israel Faxx News Service

A communiqué sent by a group of Israeli academics, Professors For a Strong Israel, said that on the evening of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel's prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister met "with a man [PA President Mahmoud Abbas) who wrote a doctorate denying the holocaust."

"At an hour when Holocaust survivors are not receiving governmental assistance and many live in poverty in the Jewish State," the PSI statement continued, "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defense Minister Amir Peretz will negotiate concessions to the Arab enemy."

Abbas wrote his doctorate in 1982 in Moscow, at the Institute for Oriental Studies. The heading of his doctoral thesis was: "Zionist Leadership and the Nazis." The introduction dealt with, among other topics, "the secret ties between the Nazis and the Zionist movement leadership." It further raised doubts that gas chambers were used to kill the Jews. He argued that the gas chambers were not used to kill people, but only to disinfect them and burn bodies to prevent disease.

Abbas' dissertation was adapted into a book and published in Jordan in 1984. Journalist David Bedein noted that the book is currently in use in the Palestinian Authority education system, under the direct control of the PA chairman.

Abbas claimed in his work that the Zionist leadership was interested in convincing the world that a large number of Jews were killed during the war in order to "attain larger gains" after the war and to "divide the booty." His primary claim is that the Zionist movement and its various branches worked hand-in-hand with the Nazis against the Jewish people, collaborating with them for the Jews' destruction, because the Zionist leaders viewed "Palestine" as the only legitimate place for Jewish immigration.

The meeting was the first of what are supposed to be regular meetings every two weeks. There were no major breakthroughs but the two leaders did agree to hold their next meeting in the West Bank.

Fulfilling a pledge they made to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to the region last month, Ehud Olmert and Abbas discussed what their aides described as a "political horizon" for the region - focusing on economic issues.

Before Sunday's meeting Olmert said he would limit his discussions to humanitarian issues and would not talk about issues such as the borders of a future Palestinian state, refugees or the future status of Jerusalem. Mr. Olmert told his cabinet Sunday he would like to encourage a Saudi Arabian-sponsored effort adopted by the Arab League in 2002 to bring about a diplomatic settlement to the Arab-Israeli dispute.

The Israeli prime minister said he would like to meet with Arab diplomatic representatives to discuss the plan, which involves Arab diplomatic recognition of Israel in exchange for Israel's withdrawal to its 1967 borders and a "just" solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees.

Aides to both men say their next meeting would take place in the West Bank, probably in the city of Jericho. Saeb Erekat a close Abbas aide, said Sunday's talks were in his words "frank" but also just a beginning.

Erekat said for the first time in nearly six years, Israeli and Palestinian leaders discussed something more than day-to-day issues, and that Abbas called on the Israelis to ease checkpoints in the West Bank and open the Gaza border with Egypt. He also said the two men discussed a possible prisoner swap of hundreds of jailed Palestinians -- in exchange for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was seized last year by Palestinian terrorists on the Gaza border.

Israeli officials said a list of prisoners the Palestinian government wants released is unacceptable because too many on the list are responsible for terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Olmert aides said he pledged to look into reopening Gaza's border with Egypt, and to also expand the operating hours of the major cargo crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Study: Cancer Risk Twice as Great for Holocaust Survivors

By Ha'aretz

The first comprehensive study of the incidence of cancer among Holocaust survivors has shown that Holocaust survivors were found to be 2.4 times more likely to have cancer than their peers who had not been through the Holocaust.

Cancer of the large intestine among male Holocaust survivors was found to be nine times that of men the same age who immigrated to Israel from Europe before World War II. Among women, the rate was 2.25 times higher for Holocaust survivors.

The study, carried out at the University of Haifa's School of Public Health and funded by the ICA, was based on National Cancer Registry statistics. Researcher Nami Vine Raviv, under the guidance of Dr. Micha Barchana and Prof. Shai Lin, compared the incidence of cancer among 1.8 million Israelis born in Europe between 1920 and 1945 who came to Israel after the war with 464,000 Israelis who were born between 1920 and 1939 and immigrated to Israel before 1939.

Female Holocaust survivors were 1.5 times more likely to have breast cancer than pre-war immigrants. Five-year cancer survival rates were also found to be lower among Holocaust survivors, by between 5 percent and 13 percent, regardless of sex or age. The researchers believe this may be a result of later detection of the disease because of an unwillingness to complain or to be examined among Holocaust survivors.

The team found that the younger the Holocaust survivor was during the war, the greater their cancer risk. For example, the risk for getting breast cancer later in life was double for women who were younger than 10 during the Holocaust than those above that age. "The exposure to starvation and malnutrition during childhood and adolescence, when the body is in a period of accelerated growth, was found to amplify the risk of developing cancer," Vine Raviv said.

AMCHA, the National Israeli Center for Psychosocial Support of Survivors of the Holocaust and the Second Generation, confirmed the research findings. "A day doesn't go by when I don't sign a letter that is somehow connected to a cancer patient," Tel Aviv branch director Hani Oron said.

A few months ago Oron sent a German translation of the study to the 11 regional offices in Germany that deal with Holocaust reparations payments, requesting funding for psychological counseling for Holocaust survivors with cancer. "Holocaust survivors have a different dialogue with death than people who weren't there," Oron said.

"Ironically, it is those who touched death for whom cancer is a terrible threat, and their reaction to it is very hard. They don't call the illness by its name, insisting on calling it 'the disease.' They are very upset and their coping abilities are weakened. Some even refuse treatment," he added.

Ben-Zion Ben-Ari was 13 when World War II came to Transnistria, in the Ukraine. For three years, he evaded the transports to the work camps and death camps. His father was taken in one Aktion. When his mother was captured, he decided to stay with her. They survived the camps and immigrated to Israel after the war.

In Israel, Ben-Ari made a life for himself, putting the horrors of the war behind him until he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 50. "For three years, I waged a daily war against death," Ben-Ari related. "Suddenly, after all those years, I was told I had a serious illness and I had to fight death once more."

At the Israel Cancer Association (ICA), where he now volunteers, Ben-Ari found the emotional support that helped him to survive a colectomy, chemotherapy and additional surgery four years later, when his cancer was found to have metastasized.

"In some ways cancer was worse than the Holocaust, because in the Holocaust I was part of a group and here I am on my own. In the Holocaust, I was young and strong," Ben-Ari said. The disease triggered nightmares from the period of the war. "For 10 years I dreamed. Everything came from my subconscious - the shouting, the fear," Ben-Ari related. He took a course in positive thinking and began taking antidepressants.

In the past few years he has had skin cancer. "I am very afraid of the disease, but skin cancer is treatable. If I survived both types of cancer it obviously means I am stronger," Ben-Ari said.

Israel Denies Entry to Muslim Spouses of Israelis

By & Israel Faxx News Services

The Libyan wife of an Israeli citizen has been denied entrance to Israel for the past two years, because the Interior Minister claims she is the citizen of an enemy state.

Shirin Sosi, a Libyan refugee living in England, met Mudar Atzi of the Israeli-Arab village of Bara, while the two were studying in London. Mudar and Shirin fell in love and married three years ago. Their first daughter was born about six months ago.

Shirin, who fled with her family to England in 1995, was recognized as a refugee by the British authorities and granted permanent residency status. In October 2005, the couple began the process of obtaining an entrance permit to Israel for Shirin, but has been denied ever since. "When this went on and was no longer a matter of two or three months but of years, I started getting angry," Mudar said. "It's not like I'm trying to do anything irregular, I'm an Israeli citizen and resident."

In the meantime, Mudar was forced to return to Israel in order to help with the family business, while his wife and baby daughter remained in England. This separation, he said, was tearing the family apart. "My wife is angry, because like any other wife, she wants her husband beside her, and I want to be with her too… Whenever I visit them in England I see a different daughter than the one I saw in my previous visit. She's growing up without me being there," he explained.

According to the couple's attorney, Yasmin Keshet, the claim that Shirin represents a threat to the state's security is false. She said that a letter sent by the Prime Minister's Office to Atzi in February stated that a reevaluation of the request found that there were no security grounds to prevent the issuing of an entry permit to Shirin.

However, despite this letter, the Interior Ministry still refuses to approve the request. "Ms. Shirin Sosi is a Libyan citizen who possesses a British passport. In light of her being the citizen of a state that requires a security clearance, the Ministry has sought the relevant authorizations from security officials," the Ministry said in a statement, adding that the couple would be informed once such authorizations are granted.

And in a similar case, Israel is denying entry to the Muslim wife of an Iranian Jewish immigrant.

Puriya Hajaram has been trying to arrange for the entry of his wife from Turkey since he arrived in Israel eight months ago, Ha'aretz reported. He and his wife illegally crossed the border into Turkey; Turkish authorities plan to deport her back to Iran, where Hajaram said she faces certain punishment.

Hajaram, 23, who has attended a Hebrew learner's ulpan and is about to start his service in the Israeli army, said Israeli diplomats and Jewish Agency officials assured him he could send for her once he arrived in Israel. The Interior Ministry and the Shin Beth security services told Ha'aretz that Hajaram's wife was denied entry for security reasons, although the Shin Beth said such decisions may be reviewed on a case by case basis.

Hajaram said his wife plans to convert to Judaism.

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