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NYC Street Named for anti-Semite Rededicated

By Israel Faxx News Services

The NY Times reported that Corbin Place in Brooklyn had been named for Austin Corbin, a 19th-century developer who was a leader of the American Society for the Suppression of Jews. Corbin also ran the Long Island Rail Road and ejected the Montaukett tribe from the Hamptons in a contested land deal.

Lawmakers wanted the street renamed but residents, including members of the Jewish community, did not want to change their addresses, the Times reported. A solution was found and the street was rededicated to Margaret Corbin, a Revolutionary War heroine who helped defend Fort Washington against the British in 1776.

Israelis Celebrate Independence Day as Hamas Fires Rockets

By Jim Teeple (VOA News) &

Israelis celebrated their 59th Independence Day on Tuesday as Hamas terrorists fired a barrage of rockets into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. For the first time in months, Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks, which caused no damage or injuries.

A leader of the armed wing of Hamas threatened more attacks and said the five-month old ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups has come to an end. The announcement comes just two days after Israeli missiles killed at least 8 Palestinians, including a 17-year old girl.

Speaking at a Gaza news conference, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader who heads the Palestinian unity government, stopped short of saying the five-month truce was over. However he did say controlling militants in the Gaza Strip is becoming more difficult, because of Israeli attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank and a lack of progress on a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

Haniyeh said the international community must do more to stop Israeli attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank, and that the situation is not a Palestinian problem but an Israeli one.

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres on Tuesday blamed divisions among Palestinians and weak Palestinian leadership for the violence, saying Israeli actions in the West Bank were designed to prevent suicide attacks inside Israel.

On Monday, in an address honoring Israel's war dead, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel is willing to make painful concessions for peace. However, referring to a possible prisoner swap with Palestinian terrorists. Olmert said Israel would not repeat mistakes it has made in the past.

Israel's prime minister said in the past Israel has released prisoners only to see them carry out further attacks against Israelis. He said, however, that a difficult decision would have to be made to get Israeli prisoners released.

The prime minister has seen his political fortunes decline precipitously since last year's Independence Day when he had just won national elections on a pledge to draw Israel's final border with the Palestinians. His political future could be determined next month with the release of an interim report by an official commission that is expected to criticize his government's conduct of last year's war in Lebanon. And in Haifa, an Arab mob of several thousand - including young men on horseback and others waving PLO flags - surrounded and threatened about 150 Jews from Haifa who went to a public forest to celebrate Israeli Independence Day. A Jewish young man was lightly injured in the ensuing clash.

On Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the group of Haifa families made their way to the Megiddo Forest, in the north of the country, a group of Arab youths on horseback accosted the Jewish celebrants, jeered and threatened them. As the young Arab men continued their menacing behavior, they called more Arab youths to join them. Some of the new arrivals were waving flags of the PLO terrorist organization.

"Within a short time, there were hundreds of Arabs surrounding us," one of the Jewish celebrants said. "We felt threatened. We are here with little children and they are threatening us. We called the police. They promised they would handle it and send a patrol car, but the car never arrived. We called the police again and again, but the help never arrived."

At this stage of the incident, a few of the Jewish young men, with Israeli flags in hand, charged the gathering Arab mob. Within moments, a fight broke out, during which one of the Jewish youths suffered a light injury to the face. The Arabs, still threatening the Jewish families, called for more of their comrades to join them.

Within 40 minutes of the start of the incident, 6,000 Arabs waving PLO flags and making menacing threats had gathered around the group of Jews in Megiddo Forest. It was only at this point that a border guard patrol jeep showed up on the scene, with just six soldiers.

Speaking from the forest at about 3:40 p.m., one member of the Jewish group described the outcome of the day's events: "The border guards are handling [the group of Arabs] and trying to block them. They are a few dozen meters from us. We are folding up to go. They are staying here. We can't stay here when we have so many little children with us. ...It is sad that this is the picture in the center of the country on the Independence Day of the State of Israel."

In August of 1999, Megiddo Forest, a planned fir forest located adjacent to Kibbutz Megiddo and the Arab-Israeli city of Umm El-Fahm, was the scene of a terrorist ambush and double murder. Two young hikers from Haifa, Yechiel Finfeter and Sharon Steinmetz, were murdered there by an Israeli Arab carrying out what was called "a nationalistic crime of opportunity."

Prodi Denounces Hamas for Breaking Truce

By Sabina Castelfranco (VOA-Rome)

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi Tuesday denounced Hamas terrorists for breaking a ceasefire with Israel, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the truce violation was an exceptional act. Abbas, who stopped in Rome on his tour of Europe, said there could be no more attacks between Israelis and Palestinians or else there could be no peace negotiations

Abbas and Prodi agreed on the need for a truce to be in place if negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians are to go ahead. Abbas said there was no other choice, but peace and that is why a ceasefire had been agreed. He added that when a violation occurs, serious efforts must be made to control the situation and ensure that the recent attacks do not occur again. Prodi firmly condemned the violation of the ceasefire. While he expressed concern over the attacks, Prodi said there was no need to trade accusations on who was responsible for the truce violation. He said this incident is to be considered isolated and the violence must cease, otherwise it is absolutely useless to talk about a peace process.

Abbas traveled to Rome as part of a seven-nation tour to persuade European countries to end economic sanctions on the Palestinian government. Direct financial aid to the Palestinian Authority was frozen after Hamas swept to power in January 2006 elections, but Abbas has argued the cutoff should be lifted, because a new unity government includes members of his more moderate Fatah party. Prodi assured that Italy would do its part to continue to assist the Palestinians.

Are You an Israeli First, or a Jew?


Nearly six decades apparently have not been enough for most Israelis to decide which of the country's attributes they identify with more – Judaism or Israeli identity.

In a poll conducted on the eve of Israel's 59th Independence Day, 50 percent of respondents said they were Jewish first, 45 percent said they were Israeli first and the remaining five percent said that both titles did not represent them.

Among secular Israelis, 72 percent said they were more Israeli compared to 23 percent who said they were more Jewish. Among respondents who view themselves as conservative, 64 percent said they were more Jewish and only 27 percent said more Israeli.

Eighty-two percent of religious respondents said they were more Jewish compared to eight percent who said they were more Israeli. The gap among the strictly-Orthodox population is the largest: 92 percent said they felt more Jewish compared to five percent that sees itself as more Israeli.

In the second part of the poll, respondents were asked which gift they would most like to see Israel receive on its birthday. Thirty-eight percent said they wished for the return of the kidnapped soldiers and 30 percent wished for peace with the Palestinians.

The poll was conducted by the Mutagim polling firm and included 501 respondents who constitute a sampling of the Jewish Hebrew-speaking adult population in Israel.

Shalvi: Ban Parties Promoting a Halacha State


This may sound surprising, but the spiritual role models that inspired Prof. Alice Shalvi, one of the prominent leaders of the feminist revolution in Israel and laureate of the Israel Prize for education, are two men: Professors Zeev Falk and Yeshayahu Leibowitz.

For Shalvi, both epitomize people with profound knowledge in Judaism, who are deeply devoted and committed to the Jewish religion and at the same time generous and open-minded intellectuals. However, while Shalvi fails to find a female role model, it is very much due to her efforts that Israel's next generation of feminine leadership is now prospering.

Despite ongoing discrimination against women in Israel, as well as many other problems plaguing society, Shalvi remains optimistic. "In the past it was impossible to imagine that someone would win the Israel Prize for her activity for women's status," she told Ynet. "Winning the award shows that this field is gaining public recognition and that the revolution continues. The young generation is involved in the issue; they have the self-confidence and knowledge to continue to strive for a truly egalitarian society."

"Prof. Alice Shalvi is a revolutionary – in her courage, her intellectual integrity and her long-term vision," the members of the Israel Prize committee wrote. "As a woman whose lifestyle is anchored in the world of Jewish tradition, her daring is deserving of praise. This daring was expressed through the promotion of a religious school that is open to dialogue with secular Israeli society, and by shaping enlightened religious feminism," they added.

During the 1970s, Shalvi was exposed to the hardships of agunot (women whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce), and the more she researched the subject the more she realized how low the status of women was in society as a whole, and particularly in religious society.

This realization has led her to dream of bringing about a revolution in education and creating a different kind of school, where female students would learn Gemara and Talmudic literature, as well as philosophy and art.

Women's ability to reach equality and knowledge has led, in Shalvi's opinion, to another revolution: Their demand for equal status in terms of prayers at synagogues. Now, Shalvi said, the sight of a girl being called up to the Torah is not so rare.

Shalvi, who grew up in an Orthodox home – though liberal and open – left the Orthodox movement in the 1990s and joined the Conservative movement. She believes that religious Judaism is still not pluralistic enough to recognize non-Orthodox denominations.

"I was personally fed up with being a second-class citizen. This feeling became particularly strong during Simchat Torah, when I was excluded from reading the Torah. This feeling has accompanied me since the 1970s, but it became even stronger as I grew older. I began attending prayers at the Conservative synagogue, but my lifestyle hasn't changed. I define myself a Halachic Jew, but my Halacha today is the Conservative Halacha, which is aware of the fact that Halacha should be reinterpreted in every generation."

One of the main topics that motivated Shalvi's move was the issue of agunot. "I'm tired of this stiffness and thoughtlessness in everything that relates to this issue… The courts are run by men. Women are not represented, and this is a paradox in a state where the Supreme Court is chaired by a woman. The haredi rabbinical judges are problematic, because they do not know the outside world, they didn't serve in the army and they grew up in a society where a woman is banned from appearing in a Beit Midrash or a synagogue, let alone in court."

She explained that to solve the problem, "First of all, by separating religion and state. The Chief Rabbinate was founded by the British Mandate in order to allow Jewish representation in the country. Judaism's principle is 'make for yourself a rabbi,' and it's unacceptable to have one institution that would have exclusive authority over women's status, marriage and conversion.

"Religion should also be separated from politics – it's intolerable that parties that openly admit they strive for theocracy instead of democracy be represented. The ban on Cohens and divorcees to wed is also illogical, and the issue of the Reform movement can also be worked out."

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