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Libya Named President of UN Security Council


Libya assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, just 20 years after sponsoring the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. Libya subsequently paid restitution to the families of the victims as part of a major court case.

Libya's ambassador to the UN, as president, is required to maintain contact with all UN member states, including Israel. Libya currently holds no diplomatic relations with the Jewish State.

Olmert Regime Bans Jewish Prayer from Temple Mount


Public Security Minister Avi Dichter announced the Israeli government's official policy regarding Jewish prayer on the site of the Holy Temple: "Jews may pray on their holiest site - but only in their heart; no lip-moving allowed."

Dichter explained that government policy on the Mount is dictated by the wish to ensure that bloodshed does not occur. He said that Jews moving their lips in prayer on the Mount, which the Muslims have sanctified as their own, can be seen as a Jewish provocation that could lead to bloodshed.

Knesset Members Aryeh Eldad and Uri Ariel - both of the National Union party and both residents of Kfar Adumim in the Jordan Valley - had submitted a request to pray on the holy site, and Dichter's response was the result.

Though the two had pledged not to perpetrate "group prayer" or "demonstrative prayer," both of which have been banned for Jews at the Temple Mount, Dichter said that the "outer trappings" of private prayer - namely, moving of lips - render even that forbidden. In his response to the MKs, Dichter noted that the only option for Jews who wish to pray on their most sacred site "is to exchange thoughts with his God in his heart."

The New Jewish Congress responded with barely-controlled fury, issuing this statement: "This is yet another indication that the government of Ehud Olmert has ceased to be a Jewish government altogether, having not the slightest connection with the Jewish people."

Just two weeks ago, the government did nothing when Fatah allowed Hamas to broadcast its anti-Jewish incitement directly from the Temple Mount. The New Jewish Congress noted the irony of the juxtaposition of the loud and clear Hamas broadcasts and the banned silent Jewish prayer emanating from the same site - that of the Holy Temple.

"In reality," the statement continued, "the Jewish people enjoy freedom of religious expression, including prayer and Torah study, everywhere - except on the Temple Mount, their only holy site."

"Minister Dichter's comments convey hatred and discrimination towards the Jewish people," the New Jewish Congress stated. "In due time, this government will be held accountable for its actions and will stand trial in a Jewish court of justice that will be established by the Jewish people."

More Israelis Relinquish Citizenship in 2007


In 2007, 867 Israelis requested to relinquish their Israeli citizenship according to figures released by the Interior Ministry on Wednesday. The number represents a 12 percent rise in citizenship cancellation requests from 2006.

The Interior Ministry indicated that most of the requests were received from Israelis living in Western countries. The highest number of requests came from Israelis living in Germany.

"Some of the Israelis who requested to renounce their citizenship are young people who went to live in countries that do not allow its residents to be dual-citizens – (citizens of) Israel and the local country, such as Germany and Holland," Ronen Yerushalmi, an official form the Interior Ministry's Population Administration, said.

"In addition, there are people who are trying to get security and other jobs, primarily in then United States, where employees are forbidden from holding foreign citizenships.

"Another reason that we saw a lot this year was the Israeli passport law. According to the law, an Israeli that arrives in Israel must present his or her Israeli passport at Ben-Gurion Airport, which obligates Israelis living abroad to go to the local consulate every couple of years to renew their passports," Yerushalmi said.

Recently, the authorities have been much more strongly enforcing the passport clause and this has discouraged Israelis living abroad from dealing with the hassle of renewing their passports.

Only a small percentage of those who requested to have their citizenship revoked were businessmen or journalists who wanted to rid themselves of the Israeli connection in order to enter countries hostile to the Jewish State.

Jewish Soldiers Say They Feel Secure Serving in German Army


Unthinkable for many Jews, Gideon Roemer-Hillebrecht is a staff officer in the German armed forces. He says he feels more secure there than "outside" because the armed forces tries to nip any indications of anti-Semitism in the bud.

Roemer-Hillebrecht dons his skullcap for prayers and on special occasions when he wears his army uniform. But he hides his Jewish headgear under a hat when he takes a walk. For security reasons, he says. "I've come to fear being recognized as a Jew," says the 42-year-old.

The army's top soldier, Inspector-General Wolfgang Schneiderhan, sees the presence of Jews in the military as a signal of hope and an indication that "no terror will come from German uniforms ever again."

Roemer-Hillebrecht is a member of the Federation of Jewish Soldiers, known under its German acronym BjS. It was founded in 2006; some 68 years after the Nazis started their pogrom against the Jews and instigated the dissolution of the Federation of Jewish Soldiers on the Front.

The reaction has been positive, according to Roemer-Hillebrecht, except from neo-Nazis who have made disparaging remarks about it on the Internet. One comment wished the Taliban good luck in chasing Jews serving with the German armed forces in Afghanistan, according to Roemer-Hillebrecht. Others warn of a "Jewish-ization of the armed forces" and a "danger to the German army" caused by its leadership "that stands to attention to the Jewish press."

Some 100,000 Jews fought for Germany during World War I. Thousands were decorated for bravery and 12,000 were killed in action. "The Nazis tried to wipe out the memory of Jewish soldiers," according to Michael Berger, chairman of the BjS. They ignored their achievements, removed their names from memorials and presented an image of "Jewish shirkers," he says.

Today, anything that could lead to "restoring the disgraced honor of Jewish soldiers is a thorn in the flesh" of right-wing extremists, he says.

One of the goals of the BjS is to cultivate the memory of Jewish soldiers who took up arms for Germany. They are an important component of German-Jewish history, according to Berger, who has written a book on the subject called Iron Cross and Star of David.

Jewish youths down to the third generation of those persecuted by the Nazi regime are exempted from compulsory military service in Germany. Other Jews will not be called up if they don't want to take up arms.

The first Jew to join the German armed forces after the war was Michael Fuerst, who enlisted in 1966. Today there are an estimated 200 Jews among the 250,000-strong Bundeswehr, as the armed forces are collectively known.

There are a greater number of Muslim and Buddhist soldiers, but no exact figures are available because the military does not keep statistics on the religious affiliation of its soldiers.

Program Allows Jews to Give Immigration a Chance


The Jewish Agency will introduce a "trial immigration" program to Jews from abroad, as part of a broader strategy to make the move less intimidating for potential immigrants from the West.

As part of the new flexible immigration program, participants will become "trial residents" - a status that will make them eligible for financial benefits that ordinary tourists are not. JAFI officials say they are working with the Ministry of Interior and plan to introduce the program within the next six months.

The plan is part of a larger restructuring of the Jewish Agency's immigration and absorption department, as well as an indication of JAFI's decision to broaden their definition of immigration to meet the changing needs and realities of Western Jews.

"With immigration by choice, people need to be willing to close a chapter and say goodbye to their family, their culture, their job and their friends," said Oded Salomon, director general of the immigration and absorption department. "Not everyone is ready for that."

The program, which will not obligate participants to immigrate, aims to provide a supportive framework for job searches, as well as expose potential immigrants to various living options if they were to move here. Jewish Agency officials say they are hoping to create living quarters for young Jews in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Participants in the program will also be assisted with travel and living expenses.

"Afterward, they can decide if they want to change their status (to become Israeli citizens) or go home," said Salomon "We believe that exposing people to life here will increase their chances of immigrating."

As part of the program, Jewish Agency officials will now also be encouraging what they call "partial immigration" so that Diaspora Jews can work and spend several months a year here, without necessarily taking on Israeli citizenship.

"We see partial immigration and immigration in stages as very positive things," said Moshe Vigdor, director general of JAFI. "People are buying apartments, bringing their children for the summer and spending a few months a year in Israel. This encourages people to think about immigration and it makes it less threatening."

The program will also be designed to provide support for people who come to Israel for a sabbatical year. The changes will also include what JAFI officials describe as a greater focus on customer service and immigrant absorption. The Jewish Agency also plans to maintain closer ties with graduates of MASA and Taglit-birthright Israel, increase partnerships with various religious movements in the Diaspora and streamline their emissary system.

Vigdor said restructuring was not part of the larger downsizing trend. The changes and upgrades, he said, will be enabled by growing partnerships with the International Fellowship for Christians and Jews - which last week pledged some $45 million to the Jewish Agency over three years.

2,200 Palestinian Pilgrims Re-Enter Gaza Despite Israeli Objections

By VOA News

Egypt has allowed nearly 2,200 Palestinian pilgrims who had been stranded in the country after returning from the hajj to re-enter the Gaza Strip through a Hamas-controlled crossing. Egyptian authorities allowed the pilgrims to pass through the Rafah terminal on the Egypt-Gaza border Wednesday despite Israeli objections.

Israel had wanted to screen the pilgrims at the Israeli-controlled crossing Kerem Shalom to prevent them from smuggling money or weapons to Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Hamas members among the pilgrims refused to comply, fearing arrest by the Israelis.

Egypt's government had housed the Palestinian pilgrims in temporary camps since Saturday. Israeli officials rebuked Egypt for allowing the pilgrims to use the Rafah crossing. Gaza's Hamas rulers thanked Cairo and hailed the pilgrims' return as a victory.

Egypt closed its side of the Rafah border crossing to regular traffic in June, when Hamas's takeover of Gaza prompted international monitors to leave the terminal. Israel says Egypt cannot open the crossing without its consent.

At Least 7 Palestinians Killed by Israeli Strike in Gaza

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)
02 January 2008

At least seven Palestinian terrorists have been killed in the Gaza Strip by an Israeli air strike. Israeli authorities say they launched a combined ground and air attack against militants in the northern Gaza Strip after the terrorists fired anti-tank missiles at Israeli troops in the area.

The armed wing of Hamas threatened retaliation for the attack. Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel radio that Israel's policy of targeted strikes against militants in Gaza is working.

He said while Palestinian rocket fire against southern Israel is continuing, Israel's policy of carrying out targeted strikes and raids against the militants is having an impact, adding Israel has no plans to launch a large-scale military operation in Gaza.

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