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Olmert: Israel will Expose Iranian Nuke Plan


"Israel will work vis-à-vis the International Atomic Energy Agency to expose the Iranian military nuclear plan for development of nuclear weapons, despite the obstacles put up by Iran," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday afternoon.

This was the first time he directly alluded to the latest American intelligence report regarding Iran's nuclear program. "We will continue the diplomatic and intelligence cooperation with the United States and its intelligence elements, and with diplomatic and intelligence elements in other states in the world," Olmert said, adding that Israel supports the continued isolation of Iran until it ceases uranium enrichment.

Israel Plans to Keep Jewish Neighborhoods in Disputed E. Jerusalem

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Days before Israel resumes formal peace talks with the Palestinians, a dispute has erupted over East Jerusalem. Israel has responded defiantly to U.S. and Palestinian criticism of new construction plans in the city.

Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon said Israel plans to hold on to all Jewish neighborhoods in disputed East Jerusalem. He told Army Radio that Israel is willing to hand over many of the Arab neighborhoods of the city to Palestinian control, but said the Jewish neighborhoods would remain a part of the Israeli capital.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the sacred Old City, from Jordan (which captured it during Israel's 1948 War of Independence) during the Six Day War in 1967, and the Palestinians claim it as the capital of their future state.

Ramon was responding to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who criticized Israel's plans to build 300 new houses in the disputed East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa. "We are in a time when the goal is to build maximum confidence between the parties, and this does not help to build confidence," said Rice.

Palestinians have also blasted the construction plan, saying it violates the understandings at last month's Annapolis conference, where the two sides agreed to resume peace talks after a seven-year break.

"The two state solution is still possible," said Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi. "The Americans claim this is their policy, that they are committed to building a Palestinian state. Then they need to do it rapidly, before Israel destroys the very foundations of the two-state solution."

The United States and Palestinians believe the Har Homa construction violates the "Roadmap" peace plan, which calls for a settlement freeze. But Israel says the Roadmap does not apply to Jerusalem, and building in Har Homa would continue.

Ramon told army radio that while Israel would not give up its recently announced 300-home building project in Har Homa, Israel cannot expect to receive U.S. support unless it gives away parts of Jerusalem to the PLO. PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that Israel cede eastern Jerusalem to become a new PLO state capital.

Gates Calls Iran Threat to Middle East, US

By VOA News

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Iran remains a threat to the Middle East and to the United States despite a new U.S. Intelligence report that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

In a speech to a security conference in Bahrain Saturday, Gates said the countries in the Persian Gulf must work together to demand that Iran clear all ambiguities about its past nuclear activities and openly pledge not to develop nuclear weapons in the future.

On Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington and other world powers have agreed to keep up pressure on Iran for refusing to stop enriching uranium - a process that can be used in developing nuclear weapons. She told reporters after talks with her NATO counterparts in Brussels that the parties agreed to continue a push for additional U.N. sanctions, if Iran refuses to comply.

Rice also met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the meeting, but did not appear to have changed Russia's opposition to additional sanctions on Iran. Lavrov told reporters that Moscow wants more talks in dealing with Iran's disputed nuclear program.

The United States said the findings in the intelligence report show that international pressure on Tehran has had an effect and must continue. Iran has never acknowledged having a nuclear weapons program and said its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes only.

Israeli Doctor Links Cell Phone Use to Cancer


An Israeli doctor participating in an international study, has found a link between cellular phone use and cancer, and recommends that cell phone use be limited among children.

The study was conducted in 16 countries, with Israel's Dr. Sigal Sadetzki, director of the Gertner Institute of Epidemiology and Health Policy Research at Sheba Medical Center concluding that standards should be reassessed and tightened to prevent radiation from cell phones. She said that current cell phone regulations do not relate to cancer caused by radiation, but rather to health risks posed by heat.

The study, published Friday in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found a clear link between cell phone use and cancerous growth in the saliva glands. Researchers found that among groups who tend to hold the phone on one side and use the phone frequently or for prolonged periods, the risk of saliva-glad cancer increased by 50 to 58 percent, compared to people who did not use a cell phone regularly.

A number of studies in recent years indicate an increased cancer risk in the auditory nerve, the brain and the saliva glands for long-time cell-phone users.

Study: Israelis Don't Trust Reporters


A study conducted by the University of Haifa shows that while the public thinks journalism is an important and respected profession, the Israeli media cannot be trusted. The results of the survey were presented at the Journalists Conference held in Eilat at the end of November.

The results of the poll show 60 percent of the public thinks journalism is an important profession. Doctors, social workers, and teachers, are more respected than journalists, while lawyers, politicians, public relations professionals and building contractors are considered less respectable.

Only 40 perfect of respondents said they trust journalists, with women believing more than men, and the educated less than the un-educated. Only 53 percent of those who were firsthand witnesses to news events said that the story was accurately reported later by the press. A whopping 60 percent said they would not want their own children to become reporters.

Study: Expatriate Children of Israelis


A study conducted by the Rapaport Center in Bar Ilan University has found that the children of Israeli yordim (expatriates) tend not to form connections with the Jewish community in their new country.

While the Israeli parents tend to maintain a strong sense of Israeli Jewish identity, they found, 60 percent of the children did not affiliate with any Jewish community. 25 percent of the children of Israeli yordim in Europe marry non-Jews, the study found.

The government has begun encouraging yordim to return to Israel, and is offering financial bonuses to those who do so. Approximately 4,000 Israeli citizens returned to the country in 2007, and the government hopes that 10,000 will return in 2008.

Israel is trying to persuade hundreds of thousands of its citizens living overseas to return home in a project to coincide with the state's 60th anniversary next year, the Absorption Ministry announced Sunday.

The project, dubbed "coming home," will try to lure Israelis living abroad to come back with tax breaks, employment and small business loans. About 650,000 Israelis live abroad, 450,000 of them in North America, the ministry said. The ministry began contacting them last month through direct phone calls, an Internet site and a hot line.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed support for the project at a cabinet meeting Sunday. "Every Israeli, even if he lives abroad, is Israeli at heart and knows that his home is here. I call on all Israelis to return home," Olmert said.

Chabad Joins Second Life


According to the Jerusalem Post, a number of people have decided to strengthen Jewish life on the popular Second Life online community. Reuven Fischer, who is affiliated with the outreach-oriented Chabad Hassidic group, has even created a virtual Kotel (Western Wall) and a yeshiva offering religious classes.

Fischer said that he has studied Torah with Jewish Second Life players of varying levels of religious observance. The players have donated over $348 dollars to Jewish causes through his Second Life tzedaka boxes, he said. The online yeshiva recently moved into a Second Life headquarters resembling the Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.

Chabad's New Israel Awareness Course


Chabad has launched a free Israel: The Land and the Spirit course in an attempt to fight growing apathy among young Jews in the Diaspora towards Israel and connect them with the Promised Land.

The course, launched by the Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) of Chabad in 750 locations around the world, is different from programs such as Birthright, according to Chabad. It explores "the nature of the deep spiritual bond that has existed between the Jewish people and the land of Israel" from the time of Abraham to today, 60 years after the re-establishment of the Jewish state.

"We are not connecting effectively with young Jews. In fact, the messages, messengers, and mechanisms we are using for our advocacy and fundraising campaigns may be even be turning them off," professional pollster Frank Luntz points out in his 2002 study titled "Israel in the Age of Eminem." He notes that "culture has replaced tradition and spirituality has replaced religion" for an entire generation of young Jews.

Another study, based on the 2007 National Survey of American Jews and focusing on "the alienation from Israel, young Jews, revealed that not even half of the study's non-Orthodox, American participants under the age of 35 would feel the demolition of Israel to be a personal tragedy. Only 54 percent are even comfortable with the idea of a Jewish State."

"Chabad is deeply concerned by the study's findings, as is everyone in the Jewish communal world," commented course editor Dr. Hana Silberstein. "We need to do everything we can, as quickly as we can, to begin to reverse this growing indifference to Israel… The Israel: The Land and the Spirit course is a strong step in that direction."

In an interview with Arutz Sheva radio, Baltimore Chabad Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan commented, "…science---these things are not adequate to tie a young American Jew to the land of Israel… People should understand that if you are a Jew and you consider your life as a Jew and your spiritual life as a Jew, Israel is a vital part of it."

The six-week course has gone through two years of preparation and is free for students under 30. It includes "texts from the late Chabad sage Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson to Natan Sharansky, and from the sages of the Talmud to opinion writers in contemporary newspapers," according to Sir Martin Gilbert, a leading British historian and official biographer of Winston Churchill. He has endorsed the course, terming it "a fascinating range of religious and secular texts [that] "will serve a noble cause in stimulating thought and encouraging understanding."

The course's first lesson, "The Promised Land," deals with God's promise to Abraham that his children will inherit the land of Israel in and answers the question, "Why was the land promised even before the nation existed?" The course then explores the life of the people of Israel in the days of the Holy Temples, when the lifestyle was linked with agriculture. It then delves into the concept of a land being holy and how a legitimate claim to the land is made.

After examining the vision of a Jewish state and whether Israel is meant to be different from other nations, the course catches up with modern Israel and the Diaspora, exploring the bond with Israel among Jews all over the world.

Two Shekel Coin Makes Appearance


More than a year after it was first announced, the Bank of Israel issued a new 2-shekel coin on Sunday - the first change in Israeli currency in nearly 20 years. Children will undoubtedly introduce it into the popular Chanukah game of spinning a top called a dreidel, in which scores are often tracked with coins.

The new coin is 2.16 centimeters in diameter - smaller than the 5-shekel coin and larger than the dime-sized 1-shekel coin. As with other Israeli coins, the 2-shekel piece's design is based on ancient Jewish coins. It depicts the "horns of plenty" filled with grapes and wheat, alongside a pomegranate that were engraved into the coins of Yehochanan Hyrcanus over 2,000 years ago.

Yehochanan was a ruler during the Hasmonean period. His ancestors were the Maccabees instrumental in the battles of Chanukah that Jewry is commemorating this week. The coin was to have been issued a while ago, but its production in the Netherlands was delayed.

The new coin was designed to be clearly identifiable to the blind, with notches grooved into its side in four places. The piece is nickel-coated and has the Hebrew year of issuance engraved on it. Though it would have been worth some 45 cents when it was first announced over a year ago, the depreciation of the dollar has raised it to 51.6 cents.

The Bank of Israel is planning to issue a new 20-shekel bill this coming February to replace the current one. Made out of a type of plastic, it will be able to better withstand the note's generally high usage. On the other hand, the five-agorot coin will be phased out of use within a year.

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