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Orthodox Union Promotes Jerusalem Sabbath


The Orthodox Union called on its synagogues to observe a "Jerusalem Sabbath" ahead of Palestinian-Israeli talks.

In a statement, the Orthodox umbrella group called the Nov. 16-17 campaign "part of its multifaceted campaign to keep Jerusalem from being divided during Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations at Annapolis and beyond," referring to the U.S.-led talks to take place in Maryland later this month.

Material in the packages the O.U. is sending to its synagogues includes a model sermon, signs, pamphlets, suggestions promoting identification with Jerusalem and a poster declaring: "Jerusalem: Keep it One. Keep it Ours."

Israel on Alert: Secret Nuclear Plant in the Crosshairs


The missile defense system at Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor is on high alert due to concerns that Syria might target it in an attack. Israeli officials said the Dimona facility is "on the top of [Syria's] list."

According to a report published in the British Sunday Times, the Dimona nuclear reactor was placed on red alert 30 times last week.

Israel's air force tracks all aircraft in neighboring Arab states, said the unidentified Israeli sources quoted in the Sunday Times, and is ready to launch a defensive strike within seconds if an unidentified or enemy aircraft attempts to approach Dimona.

Foreign media first reported the September 6th Israeli attack on Syrian soil hours after Syria filed an official complaint that Israeli aircraft had violated its air space and dropped bombs in an uninhabited area.

It was later reported that Israel had attacked a nuclear facility that showed signs of having been built by North Korean scientists, and that an unidentified U.S. official had said "Israelis obtained many detailed pictures of the facility from the ground."

A report in the New York Times in October claimed the facility was without doubt a nuclear reactor and was at least four years old. The paper published a satellite photo dated from 2003 that clearly showed a structure on the site Israel allegedly bombed that had been taken prior to the attack.

On October 2, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed that the Israeli air force attacked at least one target deep inside Syrian territory. Information regarding what was hit, exactly when and how remains classified.

Despite a flurry of foreign reports about the affair, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter insisted last week that Syrian leaders are ready to negotiate an agreement with Israel. Foreign media were the first to report that a Syrian nuclear reactor had indeed existed and that Syria eventually admitted the reactor's existence in its complaint about Israel's alleged attack – albeit later retracted. They also emphasized, as did Israeli media by then, Israel's closemouthed response to reports that the air force had destroyed the facility.

In a speech at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem, Dichter questioned whether Israel or the United States were as "mentally prepared" for peace as Syria. Dichter was heavily criticized earlier in the year for suggesting that Israel give up the strategic Golan Heights in exchange for Syrian promises of peace.

Abbas Sees 'Historic Opportunity' for Peace

By VOA News

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Mideast peace conference called by the United States is a historic opportunity to resolve the Arab conflict with Israel. He was speaking Sunday to tens of thousands of supporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, at a rally marking the third anniversary of the death of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

Hours after Abbas' speech, Palestinian negotiators were stopped at an Israeli checkpoint as they drove to Jerusalem for talks with Israeli officials about the U.S.-hosted conference, which could begin later this month.

To protest the Palestinians' treatment, their chief negotiator, Ahmed Qureia canceled Sunday's meeting and asked Israeli officials to move the talks abroad. An Israeli spokesman said Israel regrets the incident and would investigate it.

No specific date has been set for the Mideast peace conference, although U.S. officials are aiming to begin talks before the end of this year. The conference will take place in Annapolis, Md., about 36 miles east of Washington.

In his Ramallah speech, Abbas said his government would have no dialogue with the Hamas terrorist group until it reverses what he called its "black coup" in the Gaza Strip. Hamas seized the territory in June in fighting with Abbas' Fatah (moderate) terrorist movement.

Fatah supporters held several rallies in Gaza Sunday in honor of Arafat, including a gathering of about 10,000 people in the central Gaza refugee camp, Bureij. At one rally, Hamas security forces opened fire at Fatah activists and wounded several people.

Palestinians unveiled a posh mausoleum in Ramallah for Arafat, the longtime symbol of the Palestinian cause and the first president of the Palestinian Authority. The $1.75 million monument is made of glass and stone. A railroad track underneath symbolizes its temporary nature. Officials say they hope to move the structure to Jerusalem one day, when it is the capital of a future Palestinian state. For now, Israel will not allow Arafat to be buried there.

Olmert to Demand PA Accept Israel as Jewish State


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intends to demand that the Palestinian Authority accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state in upcoming negotiations. This will be Israel's precondition for any further negotiations with the PA, according to Channel 2 TV.

The report said that by making this simple demand, Olmert will be forcing the PA to give up its hope of making Israel accept an Arab influx into its borders (the "right of return" of "refugees"). If the PA accepts the condition, it will become that much simpler for Olmert to make concessions of his own.

Until now, however, the PA negotiators' position has been to reject this condition.

According to a report by Ynet, the PA's negotiating team will refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in the declaration expected to be signed at the Annapolis Mideast summit November 26. Israeli and PA negotiating teams are scheduled to meet Monday.

Iran: 'Israel is Not a Threat'


"The Zionist regime does not pose any threat to Iran," boasted Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Ali Husseini, Sunday. He was speaking to journalists who wanted to hear his response to Israeli claims regarding the Iranian nuclear project.

"Israel should not even think of a military option," Husseini said. "If it does so, it will get an unprecedented response from Iran," he explained.

President Shimon Peres told Turkish university students in Ankara Sunday. "We have no problem with Iran. Our problem is Ahmadinejad.

"I am disappointed that in the 21st century there is still a dictator like Ahmadinejad," Peres said. "What does he want from the world? I believe that by standing united, the international community can bring about a situation in which there will be no need of stopping Ahmadinejad through military action."

Israeli Police Raid Government Offices in Olmert Corruption Probes

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli police investigating corruption allegations against the prime minister have launched a series of raids in Jerusalem. The investigations could have implications on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

More than 100 police raided government and private offices in expanding criminal investigations of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. More than 20 locations were targeted, including the Industry and Trade Ministry, the Postal Authority and the Jerusalem Municipality. There are three investigations involving suspicions of bribery, fraud and breach of trust when Olmert was a cabinet minister and Jerusalem mayor a few years ago.

In one case, Olmert allegedly bought his house in Jerusalem for $300,000 below the market value, in exchange for helping a developer obtain construction permits. In another case, investigators suspect that Olmert interfered in the sale of Israel's second-largest bank to help two wealthy friends. He is also suspected of steering a government grant to a friend and arranging improper political appointments.

The Prime Minister has denied any wrongdoing, but if indicted he could be forced to step down. The investigations have further eroded public support for Olmert, whose popularity plunged after last year's inconclusive war in Lebanon. That could make it harder for the Prime Minister to offer territorial concessions to the Palestinians at an international peace conference in the United States planned for the end of this month. The conference will focus on the creation of a Palestinian state.

No Beggars Allowed at Western Wall


Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has ordered the enforcement of a new law barring solicitation of worshippers at the Western Wall. The controversial new rule went into effect last Thursday, with mixed reactions from Jews who regularly visit the holy site.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch appeared to be relieved, although unhappy that the issue had reached such a drastic resolution. The rabbi said he had received thousands of complaints from visitors who said the tzedaka (charity) collectors were aggressive in their efforts to convince worshippers to give.

"Some really went overboard and became brutal," said Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, "but it pains me that we have come to this," he added.

The rabbi added in an interview with Israel National News that although the law was actually passed a year and a half ago, the police did not begin its crackdown until last week. "We tried every other means to get the collectors to change their behavior," said Rabinovitch. "First we simply asked nicely. Then we asked a little more forcefully." Finally, he said he felt there was no choice and turned to the police.

"The mitzvah of tzedaka is a very important one, but it has to be carried out in the right way. Not by intruding on people while they are praying. Some of the beggars were shoving people, demanding money the second someone arrived at the entrance to the Wall plaza, threatening or cursing them when they did not give or did not give as much as they asked for. It just became too much," he added.

Kotel worshippers interviewed by Israel National News responded angrily that most beggars are not overly aggressive, and that the new law is cruel and against the basic Jewish tenet of love for a fellow Jew.

"I cannot believe the yeshivot and rabbis would allow this," said a tourist who asked not to be identified. "Outside every hall, before or after every celebration, be it a circumcision ceremony or bar mitzvah or wedding, it is customary to give tzedaka to those who collect – here, in Brooklyn, in Monsey – everywhere in the world. It is a disgrace that in Jerusalem, of all places, they ban people from enabling a person to fulfill the commandment of giving charity."

The tourist's host, who lives in one of the hareidi religious neighborhoods in the capital, was equally angry, saying the government's "out of sight, out of mind" approach would not change the dismal economic situation of the beggars. "Does the government think it can hide the country's poverty this way?"

The Hebrew word tzedaka is loosely translated as "charity" but actually comes from the word "tzedek" which means "justice." Jewish law mandates that a person give a certain percentage of his income to others, although it does not specify how, or to whom. It is taught that sharing one's income with those who are in need is not charity, but rather, only just, in order to ensure that no one go without.

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