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Newsletter : 7fax0511.txt

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Bar Mitzvahs for Needy Israel Children
Israel Faxx News Service

In partnership with the Jewish community of Paris, the Gartner and Pell families will host two bar-mitzvah ceremonies for 120 needy Israeli teenagers. The first will take place at the Tunisian Beit HaKnesset of Akko (north of Haifa) on May 14.

The second ceremony will be held at the Kotel (Jerusalem) on May 17, at 9:30 a.m. Ten boys and 10 girls will be celebrating their religious majority. Each boy will be given a pair of tephillin, a tallit, a siddur, a kipah and an MP3. The girls will also receive a siddur and an MP3.

Egypt, Jordan, Israel Discuss Arab Peace Initiative

By Challiss McDonough (VOA-Cairo) & Israel Faxx News Services

The foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Israel have met in Cairo to discuss an Arab initiative for Middle East peace. It is the first meeting between Jerusalem and the members of the Arab League "working group" tasked with negotiating with Israel.

It was also the first time that Jordan and Egypt have formally briefed Israel on the recently re-launched Arab peace initiative. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called the meeting "important" and "historic." Her Jordanian counterpart, Abdel-Ilah al-Khatib said the Arab League is hoping to breathe new life into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"Today's meeting was beneficial," he said. "It allowed us to express the Arab position and discuss the Israeli position. We hope that this leads to tangible results that could be positively reflected on the Palestinian-Israeli track and achieving comprehensive peace in the region."

Jordan and Israel are the only two Arab states that have already made peace with Israel and established full diplomatic relations, so meetings between them are not unusual. But in these talks, for the first time, the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers represented not their own governments, but the Arab League.

The Arab League has asked the two countries to work on convincing Israel to accept the Arab peace initiative recently revived at a special summit in Saudi Arabia. The Arab proposal offers Israel peace and normal relations with all Arab countries in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from all lands taken during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Israel rejected the deal when it was first proposed five years ago, but has recently shown more interest in it and said it might be a starting point for negotiations.

Livni said the Arab world has "an important role" to play in moving toward peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. But she also said it would be a supporting role, and the main peace negotiations would be the bilateral ones between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

"I would like to say clearly that it is not our policy, nor our goal to control the Palestinian life," she said. "On the other hand we are facing terror on a daily basis and when it comes to our ability to open passages and so on, on the other hand we have a responsibility to the life of Israeli civilians. So, this is the equation, but I truly believe if we will be determined enough to work it out we will find a solution."

Livni did not mention other regional issues, such as the return of Palestinian refugees or Israel's territorial disputes with Syria and Lebanon. The Arab League representatives said they would not be negotiating with Israel on behalf of those parties and that the appropriate role for the Arab League was to set the stage and create the right atmosphere to push the peace process forward.

Earlier in the day, Livni met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss a range of issues, including security in the Gaza Strip and along the Gaza-Egypt border.

ADL to Pope: Suspend Pius Sainthood over Holocaust Inaction

By Reuters

A U.S.-based group that fights anti-Semitism urged Pope Benedict on Thursday to suspend the sainthood process for Pope Pius XII, whom critics accuse of turning a blind eye to the death of Jews during World War Two.

The Anti-Defamation League said the process should stop until secret World War Two Vatican archives are declassified and fully examined "so that the full record of the Pope's actions during the Holocaust may finally be known."

The Vatican's saint-making Congregation has voted in favor of a decree recognizing Pius' "heroic virtues," a major hurdle in a long process toward sainthood that began in 1967.

"We urge Pope Benedict XVI to suspend the sainthood process for Pope Pius XII for the sake of historical truth and the deepening friendship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people," said Abraham Foxman, the league's national director and a Holocaust survivor.

"While we understand that the process of sainthood is an internal matter for the Church, the issue of what Pius XII did or did not do to help save Jews during the Holocaust is a profound question that must be resolved first for the sake of the Jewish-Catholic relationship," he said in a statement.

According to the Vatican Web site, it is up to the pope to decide the "liberalization" of access to documents on the basis of an entire papacy. Documents have been "liberalized" up until -- and including -- the papacy of Pius XI, which ended in 1939. If the documents are "liberalized," only scholars would be granted access to the papers.

If German-born Pope Benedict approves the Congregation decree, as expected, Pius XII would be officially given the title "venerable." The Vatican would then move toward beatification by looking for miracles performed by the late pope.

The pontificate of Pius has been one of the trickiest problems in postwar Roman Catholic-Jewish relations. Jewish groups have accused Pius of being indifferent to the Holocaust and diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Israel were briefly tested last month over a depiction of him at a state Holocaust memorial in Israel.

Before being elected pope in 1939, Pius XII was Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli. He served as the Vatican's ambassador to Germany in 1917-1929 and was Vatican secretary of state in 1930-1939. Pius died in 1958.

The Vatican maintains that Pius did not speak out against the Holocaust more forcefully because he was afraid of worsening the fate of Catholics and Jews and worked behind the scenes to save Jews.

Jewish groups have pressed the Vatican for years to either freeze the sainthood process of Pius XII or shelve it altogether for fears that it would harm Catholic-Jewish relations.

Olmert Blames IDF for Failures of Lebanon War

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

The testimony of Israel's embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to an official inquiry investigating last year's Lebanon War has been released for publication. And his comments have brought further calls for his resignation.

Olmert blamed the army for the failures of the Lebanon War when he testified before the Winograd Commission. He said "the army disappointed itself and did not meet expectations. The Prime Minister said the military brass told him the army was strong "and ready to carry out any mission." He said he "could not have known this was not the case."

Last week, the inquiry commission sharply criticized Olmert's handling of the war, describing it as a "severe failure in judgment, responsibility and caution." It accused him of rushing into war without a battle plan or exit strategy.

But in his testimony, the Prime Minister said there was no other choice but to strike at Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon immediately after they kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. He said he knew the militants would respond with rocket attacks, but he had two options: to strike decisively or do nothing.

Olmert has faced an avalanche of calls for his resignation since the commission issued its interim report nearly two weeks ago. And now, the publication of his testimony has brought more calls for him to step down.

Gideon Saar is chairman of the opposition Likud party. Saar told Israel Radio that Olmert's testimony is another attempt to blame others for the failures of the war, this time the army. Saar said the Prime Minister has not learned the lessons of the war, and therefore, he should resign.

But Olmert's Kadima party is defending him. Parliamentarian Menachem Ben Sasson of Kadima told the same radio program that Olmert's testimony shows the government was functioning properly. He said that when Hizbullah captured the two soldiers, Olmert properly appointed the army to deliver a decisive response.

The embattled Prime Minister has been holding on to power. But there are many obstacles ahead. The Labor Party will elect a new leader at the end of this month, and some candidates say that if elected, they will pull Labor out of the government. And if he survives that long, Olmert will no doubt face further pressure to resign when the inquiry commission presents its final report in July or August.

Islamic Movement Initiates Effort to Flood Temple Mount


Sheikh Raad Salah, the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, has been working hard to ensure that thousands of Muslims will arrive in Jerusalem's Old City every day to pray in the Al-Aksa mosque, located on the Temple Mount. Salah has been talking with Arab clan leaders from Jerusalem and its environs in an effort to convince them to take turns bringing their entire extended families to the mosque.

Salah also said that he plans to see to it that Jerusalem mosques are closed on Friday, the Muslim day of rest, in order to force all those who wish to take part in group prayers to travel to the Al-Aksa mosque. He has talked to Muslim leaders in other parts of Israel, asking them to tell their followers to visit the Jerusalem mosque in order to demonstrate a strong Muslim presence there. Such a presence, Salah is telling local Muslims that is the best defense against "Israeli aggression."

Salah expressed his conviction that Jerusalem will fall into Muslim hands by "Heavenly promise." He also said that in such a conquest, no sign of a Jewish presence will remain. The Islamic Movement is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, as is Hamas. Group members call Salah the leader of the "1948 branch."

Jerusalem Students Clash with Police

By Ha'aretz

Two police officers and two students sustained light injuries Thursday night during clashes in Jerusalem during protests over proposed education reforms, Israel Radio reported. The students were taken to hospital for treatment and the police officers were treated at the scene, the radio said. A total of 12 student protesters were also reportedly arrested.

The clashes erupted when more than 1,000 student marchers blocked streets in Jerusalem after straying from a route agreed with the security forces. The students were marching to the prime minister's residence, as part of protests against education reforms. The demonstrators are demanding that the government lower tuition fees and increase the budget allocated for higher education.

Police said that the organizers of the march had lost control over the protesters, after students marched to Zion Square, the central plaza in the capital, and blocked traffic on Jaffa Street, a primary artery, despite promising to remain in Independence Park.

The students on the march wore red shirts and carried drums. They chanting "Free education for all," and "No education, no state." A protest tent has been set up near the prime minister's residence, and students plan to remain for a significant period of time.

On Friday, students are planning a "free day of education" on Rothschild Street in Tel Aviv. Students and lecturers will speak on an array of subjects and also hold discussions, theater workshops and street shows.

Despite the student's enthusiasm, some of the student union heads are trying to convince the National Student Union to end the strike. The Hebrew University Student Union sent a letter to the Chair of the National Student Union Itai Shonshein calling him to stop the strike immediately. In the letter, the students wrote that the goals of the strike are unrealistic.

Shonshein said in response that the union representative's opinion is not indicative of the stance held by the majority of students who are determined to continue the strike until there are significant achievements. He called the government's offer "pathetic" and said that they are trying to form a divide between new students and old. He added that these tactics are how the government broke the workers' unions in factories and succeeded in bringing in manpower employees. "Whoever wants to lead a public struggle cannot hurt the students of the future," Shonshein said.

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