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Bronfman Resigns from WJC
Israel Faxx News Service

World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman has resigned. His resignation came Monday at a steering committee meeting of the organization he has led for nearly 30 years.

The resignation caps weeks of turmoil within the organization after the firing of Israel Singer, a longtime senior official. WJC affiliates in Europe, Latin America and Israel had expressed dismay over the way he was fired. The steering committee will select a new president on June 10, according to WJC officials.

Israel Carries Out Air Strike in Gaza

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli aircraft attacked a car in the Gaza Strip that Israeli military authorities said were carrying Palestinian terrorists planning to launch rockets against southern Israel. One militant was reported wounded in the attack.

The Israeli strike followed a recent spike in rocket attacks by Arab terrorists against Sderot, the nearest Israeli town to the Gaza border. Israel's Prime Minister warned Israel would no longer tolerate the attacks.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Israel Radio that Israeli patience had run out. Peretz, who also heads the Labor Party, said while Israelis want peace they would not put peace before security.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attacks and vowed to retaliate for Israel's missile strike. The group did not sign a Gaza truce agreement with Israel that other Palestinian armed factions agreed to last November.

Meanwhile, U.N. officials said they are increasing security at U.N. facilities in Gaza, where Islamic extremists attacked a U.N. run school on Sunday. The group called a sports festival at the school that involved both boys and girls "un-Islamic" and warned of violence. A security guard was killed in the attack and seven others were wounded.

The senior U.N. official in Gaza, John Ging, said the problems with security there can be tied to problems with money. "The bottom line is that security forces that we all rely on to uphold law and order have been without their regular salaries for well over a year. They are demoralized, de-motivated and it is basically down to that. This was predicted, it is predictable, and until there is a solution to the funding crisis that faces the Palestinian Authority and all elements of the public sector, we can expect deterioration in public serves, including security services, to continue."

Most international funding to the Palestinian Authority was suspended last year following the Hamas victory in Palestinian legislative elections. A new Palestinian unity government has managed to get some funding restored, but mainly for humanitarian assistance.

Ging said despite the deteriorating security situation, the United Nations has no plans to curtail its extensive operations in Gaza. Palestinian security officials said the same group that attacked the U.N. run school appears to be behind a string of attacks on internet cafes and video rental stores. Monday also marked the eighth week of captivity for the BBC's Gaza correspondent, Alan Johnston. He was the only western reporter permanently based in Gaza. Despite global calls for his release there is no information about his condition or whereabouts.

Rice Postpones Mideast Talks Due to Israeli Political Upheaval

By David Gollust (VOA-State Department)

The State Department has confirmed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is postponing a set of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders originally planned for next week, because of political turmoil in Israel.

Rice had intended to link the Middle East visit with a trip she is making to Moscow. She has made three trips to Israel and the Palestinian areas this year as part of a stepped-up U.S. effort to revive the regional peace process.

But State Department officials confirmed news reports from the region that she is putting off a fourth visit that had been planned for next week, because of the political controversy surrounding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The Israeli leader has faced calls for his resignation after an investigative panel late last month accused his government of multiple failures in its conduct of the war last year with Lebanese Hizbullah terrorists.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the travel decision was made because of the complexity of Israeli politics in the near term. But he said it in no way means a lessening of the U.S. determination to help the parties move forward, and he said the Rice trip that begins in Moscow next week could still include a Middle East stop.

"There is obviously a lot of politics in Israel that they are working through at this point," he said. "But we are going to continue our efforts to advance the Israeli-Palestinian track. And if she does make a stop in the Middle East, I would look for her to focus on ways in which we might do that, though not necessarily stopping in Israel and the Palestinian areas."

Last week, the United States conveyed to Israel and the Palestinian Authority a list of confidence-building steps it would like to see each side take in the coming weeks to improve the climate for peace efforts.

What the State Department describes as benchmarks include a call for the Palestinian side to develop a plan by late June to stop Gazans from firing rockets into Israel.

Israel meantime is being asked to ease West Bank travel restrictions in phases, and to allow Palestinian bus travel between the West Bank and Gaza in keeping with a crossings deal Rice negotiated in late 2005 that has gone largely unfulfilled.

Israeli officials have expressed doubt the Palestinians would meet their obligations under the U.S. document, and have objected to removing certain West Bank roadblocks.

Under questioning, Spokesman McCormack said the U.S. document was not intended as a non-negotiable set of demands, but rather a starting point for improving the political climate between the sides.

Sarkozy Takes French Presidency
Israel Faxx News Service

Nicolas Sarkozy, "by far the most pro-Israeli French presidential figure Israel could have hoped for" according to one political analyst, won the runoff election for the presidency. He will take over his new post May 16.

Many French Jews were seen as backing Sarkozy, known as an American-style law-and-order politician, for his hard line against Muslim unrest in France, including anti-Semitic attacks.

Political expert Frederic Encel called Sarkozy "by far the most pro-Israeli French presidential figure Israel could have hoped for." Encel said Sarkozy's campaign speeches, political program and advisers will mean a more balanced approach on the Middle East, although the Israeli Foreign Ministry has said that France has made major changes in that approach in the past two years.

Encel believes that Sarkozy is determined to improve relations with the United States, which in turn will mean better ties with Jerusalem.

U. Md. Co-op Offers Apology to Jewish Student

By University of Maryland Diamondback

When sophomore individual studies major Rachel Bergstein heard that a student had been denied service by a Maryland Food Collective worker because she was wearing a shirt that said "I Stand With Israel," she was - to put it mildly - "absolutely shocked. I really couldn't wrap my mind around it."

So she wrote a letter to the editor that was printed last week in The Diamondback. That letter sparked a campus-wide debate centered on the decision by the worker to defer service and the reaction from the Jewish community at the collective's failure, in Bergstein's opinion, to "talk the talk and walk the walk of tolerance and openness."

In a statement, the co-op apologized to the student who was denied service, but said Bergstein's letter was a step backward in resolving the issue, writing, "People who were not directly involved with the interaction that occurred on April 24 have greatly misrepresented both parties and have thus slowed down the process of reconciliation."

Although the female student who was involved in the incident at the collective could not be reached for comment, Avi Mayer, president of the Pro-Israel Terrapin Alliance, said he had spoken to her and could give a rough timeline of events.

On April 24, the student and a friend visited the collective, and when she tried to pay for her items, the worker at the register said the student's "I Stand with Israel" shirt was offensive and told her to find someone else to help her. The student found another worker and made her purchase, but left the store "emotionally distraught," Mayer said.

"To my understanding, it was done openly and in front of others, and in a mildly humiliating manner, and that really is something that is not acceptable," Mayer added. "[The student] really does want to resolve this, but I think it goes way beyond her individual experience because we can't allow this to occur. We can't allow this to be an epidemic that goes on."

Because workers at the co-op operate on equal terms, they each have the right to defer service to any customer, workers said during the collective's weekly meeting on April 30, which Bergstein and other Jewish students attended.

The co-op has not clearly outlined what its policy is on individual workers denying service to customers based on political beliefs, and Mayer expressed concern that similar incidents could happen again.

Hebrew University: Herod's Tomb and Grave Found at Herodium

By Ha'aretz

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced Monday night that it has uncovered the grave and tomb of King Herod, who ruled Judea for the Roman Empire from circa 37 BCE.

According to a press release from the Hebrew University, the news of the archeological find at Herodium was to be announced Tuesday morning at a special news conference, and was to be kept secret until then, but the discovery by Ha'aretz of the story had led to the premature announcement.

The tomb was discovered by Hebrew University Professor Ehud Netzer, who is considered one of the leading experts on King Herod. Netzer has conducted archeological digs at Herodium since 1972 in an attempt to locate the grave and tomb.

The majority of researchers had believed that Herod was in fact buried at Herodium, based on the writings of the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, but multiple excavations at the site failed to locate the grave.

Netzer's successful dig focused on a different part of the site than previous excavations, between the upper part of Herodium and the site's two palaces. Herodium, a fortified palace built by Herod some 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem, was destroyed by the Romans in 71 CE.

Herod, whose father and grandfather converted to Judaism, was appointed governor of Galilee at the age of 25 and was made "King of the Jews" by the Roman senate in approximately 40 BCE. He remained king for around 34 years.

Herod, also known as Herod the Great, is credited with expanding the Second Temple and building Caesarea, Masada, and many other monumental construction projects. He died in the year 4 BCE in Jericho after a long illness.

Herod decided to construct his tomb at Herodium because the site played a role in two dramatic events in his life. In the year 43 BCE, when Herod was still governor of the Galilee, he was forced to flee Jerusalem along with his family after his enemies the Parthians laid siege to the city.

His mother's chariot flipped over near Herodium, and Herod became hysterical until he realized she was only lightly wounded. A short while later, the Parthians caught up to Herod and his entourage, although Herod and his men emerged victorious in the ensuing battle.

At Herodium, Herod built one of the largest monarchical complexes in the Roman Empire, which served as a residential palace, a sanctuary, an administrative center and a mausoleum. Herod first built an artificial cone-shaped hill that could be seen from Jerusalem, on which he constructed a fortified palace surrounded by watchtowers that he used solely in wartime.

At the base of the hill, he built an additional palace, which was the size of a small town and known as "Lower Herodium." The palace included many buildings, fancy gardens, pools, stables, and storage areas. Herod spared no expense in an attempt to turn the site into a regional gem, bringing water from Solomon's Pools and special soil to allow his gardens to blossom in the heart of the desert.

Following Herod's death, his son and heir Archilaus continued to reside and Herodium. After Judea became a Roman province, the site served as a center for Roman prefects.

With the outbreak of the Great Revolt, Herodium was seized by the rebels, but then handed over without resistance to the Romans following the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Fifty years later, Herodium was also used by the rebels during the Bar Kokhva revolt, but was abandoned thereafter.

In the 5th century CE, the site was settled by Byzantine monks, and then served as a leper colony before being finally abandoned in the 7th century CE.

The first archeological dig at the site, between the years 1956 and 1962, was conducted by a Franciscan monk and revealed most of the currently-known remains. Israel began excavations at the site in 1972, several years after its capture during the Six-Day War.

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